Michael Daugherty is one of the best and most interesting composers working today! His music is a melange of various sources; rock, pop, minimalism, the 19th century - all blended together in a way that way captures the listener and has come to define his style. His latest CD program, "Route 66", on Naxos American Classics serves as a terrific introduction to his music for those who need one as well as a sonic "tour" of the American southwest. Three of the pieces in this wonderful collection are inspired by trips through the heartland and to the west coast. Yet, this thematic similarity that gives the program its unity is after the fact. "Route 66" is a short, jaunty excursion that simulates, in music, the feel of passing through different vistas and ethnic inspirations culminating in a big band, big city feel. The work, written for the Kalamazoo, MI, Symphony in 1998, features Daugherty's characteristically exciting and jazz inspired use of brass and percussion. This disc then evokes the sights and sounds of New Mexico as depicted by its most famous artist, Georgia O'Keefe. "Ghost Ranch" (2006) is written in three movements - Bone, Above Clouds and Black Rattle. Each movement evokes imagery from actual O'Keefe paintings. The imagery in "Bone" reflects the many skull and bone images found in O'Keefe's work (who found inspiration in the contrast between the beauty of clean skies and open desert and the starkness of dry, abandoned remains and archeological ruins) The effects which rely on wood percussion and other 'bone-like' timbres is clear and effective. "Above Clouds" references the painting, "Sky Above Clouds I-IV" The effects of space and distance are handled with some wonderful "floating" brass writing. Lastly, "Black Rattle" depicts O'Keefe's own experiences being alone in the desert with strange, often frightening sounds at night. The orchestration depicts the danger, the solitude and the "blackness" with great effect. Imagine then, that the journey evoked by this CD ends in downtown LA, specifically on "Sunset Strip" (1999) where bars, strip clubs, private detective agencies and the whole mid fifties "noir" imagery of the growing Los Angeles is felt with jazzy, Latin inspired and somewhat 'seedy' aplomb! This is a very nice piece that depicts its moods from '7 PM' through the 'Nocturne' and ending at '7 AM" The last work in this collection is Daugherty's "Time Machine" from 2003. This piece does not have anything directly in connection with the 'travelogue' of the others. However, its focus on "Past" and "Future" works nicely to mesh with some of the nostalgic tour of the other works. This is a big, vivid orchestral work wherein the ensemble is divided into three parts, requiring three conductors as the orchestra is physically divided on the stage. Daugherty explains that when the three parts play together, it creates a "three dimensional" effect to simulate flying through time. His orchestration is, again, colorful, relying on odd but beautiful effects in the percussion and winds. The more works I hear by Michael Daugherty, the more I like it. His music is accessible, fun to listen to and incredibly creative and clever in its themes and orchestration. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra give another great performance here and conductor Marin Alsop proves again that is both one of America's finest conductors as well as an expert interpreter of contemporary American music! I liked this disc a lot and I believe most people would. Take the trip down this particular "Route 66"!