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This review is from: Jazz (Audio CD)
To listen to Cooder's entire catalogue would be to take a small PhD for the ears in musical Americana, ranging from dust-bowl folk via the roots of blues, taking in the Caribbean and Latin America, slinky, funky soul and R'n'B, and, as here, the taproot of nearly all of the above, early jazz.
What I love is how, just as Cooder balances technique and feel in a way that I think is about as perfect as it could be, he also mixes passion and erudition. This is beautiful, moving music, but it's also a lovingly and studiously put together time capsule and history lesson. As ever the choice of material is refreshingly eclectic, and yet feels entirely natural.
Involving some of his most orchestrated recordings, the large 'cast list' is pretty impressive, with some jazz sessionistas appearing, like bassist Chuck Domanico, and some who are, or rather were at the time of recording, living links with the tradition itself, such as Red Callender and Earl Hines, even if many of the names are not that familiar.
The use of cimbalom (a hammered dulcimer) on several tracks gives an unusual texture, and Cooder brings out a distinctly Caribbean feel in several numbers. Anyone doubting Cooder's virtuosity - he so often plays for the song - should check his gorgeous solo guitar reading of Bix Beiderbecke's Flashes: sublime! And as a drummer I really dig the subtly articulated playing of Mark Stevens, whose press rolls are as light and smoothly aerated as perfectly whipped cream... Mmm!