|I first became familiar with transplanted Newfoundlander Duane Andrews, upon hearing him perform as part of Kate Schutt's quartet during the Partis Gras weekend in July, 2007 at the Distillery District. His mastery of the guitar was as impressive then as it is on this collection. This 11-song album of instrumentals is a medley of juxtapositions and surprises. On the surface, the strumming is feather-light and playful, masking the depth of each offering. Also, the lightning-quick tempo at which each song is delivered belies the intricacy and complexity of the pieces played.
Although the performance is playful and lighthearted, the tracks are full, multi-layered and unfrivolous. Django Reinhardt's ghost was definitely tapping his toes throughout this album. These skilled musicians make everything sound easy, yet, with each intimate listen their dexterity and talent shines successively brighter.
On the liner notes, the gracious personal references from Andrews noting how and why each piece was chosen add a heartwarming flavour to this wonderfully uplifting collection. Of the 11-song trip, Andrews penned "Adrianna", "Rosa", and "Jamo's Blues".
These beautifully calming and soothing melodies incorporating flavourings of jazz, Spanish, klezmer, country, bluegrass and tango blend effortlessly well together. There is so much creativity oozing through these pieces. For example, their version of Duke Ellington's "Caravan" is more light-hearted than the original with Patrick Boyle's up-the-staircase trumpeting lending the piece an original New Orleans flavour. Conversely, "Just Another Dream" hints at an upcoming flamenco flourish, then suddenly makes an unexpected seamless u-turn into an ode to bluegrass. Also surprising is "The Portuguese Waltzes" with its ever-so-slight nod to Mason Williams's "Classical Gas".
Although the majority of selections are played only with strings, the texture and creativity of the arrangements provide an unexpected fullness. This fullness fools the ears into believing there is an accordion, banjo and violin popping in every so often to spice up this musical gathering. Yet, solely the virtuosity of this quartet, using only guitars, bass and trumpet can be credited with producing these lush sounds.
Throughout, the teasing interplay between Andrews on guitar, Steve Hussey on rhythm guitar and Frank Fusani on acoustic bass calls to mind a race through a maze, with each musician competing to be the first to reach the exit. A bonus for all the musicians listening to this wonderful collection: transcriptions, a chord primer and chord charts for selected tracks are included on this enhanced disc.
Final thoughts: If everyone driving around only listened to this soothing and uplifting selection of marvelously arranged songs, road rage would be non-existant.
reviewed by Laila Boulos December 2007