Jim Self,
My America
(Basset Hound, 2002)

My America is a CD of classic American tunes such as "Turkey in the Straw" and "America the Beautiful" -- featuring the tuba and related instruments. This alone would not make this CD appealing, except that Jim Self is both a top studio musician and, along with producer Kim Scharnberg, quite creative. Self has many credits, listed at www.bassethoundmusic.com, along with interesting pictures of his many low brass instruments.

Seven of the 16 cuts feature Self playing the fluba, his own hybrid instrument. This tuba-sized flugelhorn has a range a little higher than the tuba. Self shows that this horn and standard tubas can be used as lead instruments. On tunes including "Tennessee Waltz" and "Old Homes," a Stephen Foster medley, Self plays beautifully melodic tuba with only a pianist for accompaniment.

Many of the cuts have a Dixieland feel. Self's various sidemen include those playing trumpet, trombone, sax, violin, cello, tenor banjo and percussion. The interesting "Sousa, Phone Home!" has only a drummer with Self playing bass parts and quotes from famous marches on eight sousaphones.

There are a few humorous arrangements, including a cartoonish one of "Camptown Races" and "Pennsylvania 6-5000 Polka," where the eight musicians pause at various points to yell out the phone number in the title. "Juba Plays the Fluba in Aruba," which features a "Dukes of Hazzard" narration and dog howls, tries too hard and is Self-indulgent instead of funny.

This CD will not be to everyone's taste. But anyone who enjoys old-time American popular tunes should find My America a wonderful collection.

- Rambles
written by Dave Howell
published 17 January 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.

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