Elephants in the Crosswalk
Newt Johnson - piano, electric piano; Ben Cohen - tenor saxophone; Brian Palmieri - drums; Jim Cavender - electric bass, bass VI, electric guitar. Special Guests: Daniel Kennedy - theremin; Terri Cavender - flute. Rolling Jazz Revue is made up of hyper-creative guys who are constantly writing songs, learning new instruments, experimenting with guest musicians, bouncing ideas off of each other, recording and performing. They had a great time putting this CD together, and it shows. The instrumentation and arrangements often make you laugh and wonder where they're going, but then as you listen you realize the band knows exactly where it's taking you. The songs hold together and stay in your head. The group recorded some of the songs with structured shifting background textures, while they left others as simpler arrangements allowing the players to stretch out and solo a little longer. The use of theremin, an instrument requiring the musician to position his or her hand in an electrical field to hit different pitches (used often in old science fiction B-movies) and the twangy bass VI, a guitar tuned down a whole octave (used in western soundtracks) hints at the influence of exotica without diluting the jazz content. The title track, 'Elephants In The Crosswalk', was inspired when pianist Newt Johnson got stuck in a traffic jam in downtown Huntsville, Alabama, where traffic jams never occur. He rightfully wondered, 'What could possibly be the problem?' and looked up to see elephants in the crosswalk ahead; the tune captures the situation perfectly. He also wrote a tribute to renowned drummer and bandleader Paul Motian, 'Safety In Motian', which starts off free-form before launching into mid-tempo swing, then back to free again at the end. 'Two Strangers' with it's hovering theremin can be placed firmly in the genre of sci-fi jazz. 'Theme From 'Every Mother's Daughter'' is a folkish overture to a yet-to-be-filmed movie. 'My Recurring Dream' is a semi-improvised round of at least four distinct melodies, while 'Slow Dance, No Dance' is a modernist free excursion built on a melody that reveals the influence of old-fashioned Broadway show tunes. Building on the experience of their monthly sets at Huntsville's Flying Monkey Arts Center, RJR has put together an album that changes in mood and texture from song to song like a well-paced concert. It's a sure bet that their original tunes will stay in your head for good. If you like jazz built around memorable songs, you've come to the right place.