CD Review / World Music

The 442s

Need an hour or so of some original and delightfully eclectic music? Something jazzy, yet a bit folksy? Something with an occasional blue grass sound, yet played by jazz and classically trained musicians? Then I invite you to try The 442s’ new self-titled album.

Jazz, for the most part, would probably sum it up best thanks to the playing of composer, guitarist and keyboard instruments’ player, Adam Maness and jazz bassist Sydney Rodway, both of the Erin Bode Group, a well-known jazz quartet in St. Louis.

But then again, you also have violinist (and Indiana University grad!) Shawn Weil and Cellist Bjorn Ranheim – both of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Occasionally add in the jazz vocals of Erin Bode, the namesake of the aforementioned jazz quartet, you have quite the enjoyable mix of sounds on this album of original songs played by the string quartet known as The 442s.

I thoroughly enjoyed the music and think all those who listen will embrace the variety of musical styles heard throughout the album. While the music was all written by guitarist / multi-instrumentalist Adam Maness, it’s an obviously collaborative effort on the parts of these talented musicians.

From their website:

Brought together by the innovative and inspired compositions of Adam Maness, who also plays guitar, accordion, melodica and glockenspiel in the group, The 442’s features Shawn Weil on violin, Bjorn Ranheim on cello and Sydney Rodway on bass.

The442s_1This unique collaboration, formed in the spring of 2012 by a tight-knit group whose love of good food and fine beer makes rehearsals feel like dinner parties, combines outstanding musicianship, group singing, inventive improvisation, whistle solos and special guest appearances by famed jazz vocalist, Erin Bode. Exploring the boundaries of jazz, classical, folk and rock music, their music can move you to the edge of your seat or comfort you like a lullaby, all within the same set.

The album opens with a song named after a part of Tokyo known for great noodles, Shibuya. In fact, like the name of the quartet (named both after the orchestra tuning as well as current and former addresses of the musicians) all the song titles are named after actual locations which, if you buy the CD, will be apparent in the maps and compass that are included in the liner notes. (Seriously!)

The addition of the accordion in Great Blue C makes me think of buskers playing behind the Notre Dame cathedral on the Île de la Cité. Although at one point, it also reminds me of the theme from the movie Nebraska – that is, until it adds in a jazz piano which leaves no doubt as to the influence behind this song. Critically acclaimed jazz vocalist, Erin Bode, lends her pipes to The One and The Road adding just the right balance to the mostly otherwise instrumental works.

A bit of American roots influence from compilations by the likes of Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer (Goat Rodeo Sessions and Appalachian Journey) can be heard in Heston’s which has a slight blue grass feel in the almost pensive melody played. Listen to it below and let me know what you think.

Hohner reveals a subtle hint of Simon and Garfunkel while recounting a tale of father – son relationships. Irish is Reel isn’t overly Irish, but following the tradition of many jazz pieces, it works its way around the ensemble allowing them to each showcase their talents while taking turns with the solos. Chime has an awesome beat to it and if you didn’t get enough of the piano earlier on the album, Hondo’s will take care of that for you along with some great bass lines mixed in. Chelsea opens with a great percussive sound on the guitar, but making the most of the instruments available to them, includes a bit of whistling as well. Very fun!

Finally, for some flashy violin playing, The Multitude has no problem showing how nimble Shawn Weil’s fingers are in an almost flashy, chaconne-like opening which soon transitions to a smooth violin sound as the song progresses.

Overall there’s a definite American roots feel wrapped up in the warmth of jazz performed by these experienced jazz and classical musicians that is not to be missed. Think of this as an hour of comfort music great to listen to over dinner or relaxing with friends.

Learn more about the 442s, including their upcoming performance dates and venues, by visiting their website.

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