Tony Trischka Band,
New Deal
(Rounder, 2003)

Once again Tony Trischka blurs the lines between several different genres of music, coming down heavily on the jazz side, and to great effect. The notes on the jewel box liner nail it well: "There's a jam band sensibility here, along with serious musical chops and influences from bluegrass, jazz, funk, blues, Eastern music and American old-time music." Hell, yeah, and more. Trischka is joined by Bob Bowen on bass, Scott Newman on drums, Rolf Sturm on guitar and sax player Michael Amendola, who, along with Trischka, wrote the compositions here, with the exception of the first track.

That track, Earl Scruggs' "Earl's Breakdown," makes a nod to the past while staying firmly in the present, with fine sax and guitar solos. "44" is bluesy jazz leavened with a touch of bluegrass. David Johansen contributes a whiskey-voiced vocal to this delightful Monk-Meets-12-Bar-Funk quirkiness. "Big Papa Rides Again" is a Hemingway tribute that allows Amendola to shine again, in lightning fast solos that are musically well thought out and not just speed for the sake of velocity.

There's a hollow Paul Winter tone to the sax on "Northern Falling," a rather meandering theme that's laid back to the point of being mildly soporific. "Hand Me My Banjo Down" gets things back in gear, but the key makes Loudon Wainwright's vocal so painfully high that your throat constricts in sympathy. There's a rhythmically enthralling conversation between drums and banjo on "Miracle Man," which also boasts a rocking pedal-steel flavor to savor. "Quasi Qoto" is predictably Japanese in tone, with Trischka doing the koto honors on a "slide" banjo. It's a lengthy track, minor and modal, which allows the soloists to do some fascinating exploration of the musical terrain.

"Fair Lawn Justice" swings nicely, with some fine soprano sax work and a propulsive drum solo that gives Newman a chance to stretch out. There's a gentle rising and falling effect in the background of "Arizona," a slow, moody and expressive piece that proves cyclical, ending where it began. "Baby's in the Cradle" is a cute little rocker, and the final track, "A Hymn for Dreams That Don't Come True," is a sweet and simple way to go out.

As usual with Trischka's projects, the musicianship is impeccable and the compositions are nearly always compelling. If you like seeing musical borders crossed and new lands explored, you'll enjoy any of his recent CDs, and this is no exception.

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 10 October 2003

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