Review By Steven Stone
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CD Number: Blue Night Records BNR-215
During the last sixty years Jazz has increasingly become marginalized. Music that was mainstream at the end of WWII slowly, but inexorably, became more and more elitist and less and less popular. For most people listening to jazz is work, not recreation. Don Stiernberg's latest release,
Unseasonably Cool, makes you realize that jazz is not by its nature inaccessible. Here you'll find an entire CD full of jazz standards performed with lyricism and grace.
Don plays the mandolin, which is not commonly thought of as a jazz instrument, but in Don's hands it sounds right at home comping or leading. Don's style owes much to Jethro Burns, who pioneered jazz mandolin, but his style is somewhat less frenetic and more introspective. Don leads a fine group made up of Curt Morrison on guitar, Jim Cox on bass, and Kevin Connelley on drums. Also joining in on some cuts are Art Davis on flugelhorn and trumpet, Ron DeWar and Richie Fudoli on tenor saxophone, Russ Phillips on trombone, Aslejo Poveda and Geraldo deOliveira on percussion, and Gerg Studebaker on cornet.
The songlist reads like a who's who of American songwriters, including standards by Hart and Rodgers, Romberg and Hammerstein, Green and Heyman, Warfield and Williams, Duke Ellington, Hoagy Carmicheal, and Lalo Schifrin. With total playing time of over 62 minutes, Stiernberg and company have plenty of time to luxuriate in their rich ensemble sound and explore the inner spaces of American classics such as "I Cover the Waterfront" and "Easy Living."
Executive producer Steven Briggs and engineer Steve Rashid deliver a lush sonic landscape full of warmth and intimacy. Along with mastering engineer Randy Leroy from Final Stage in Nashville, Tennessee, they deliver sound that reminds me of the best production work of the late Norman Granz.
If more jazz CD's were like Unseasonably Cool, jazz would be far more popular today. While "broad appeal" might sound like a denigrating term to elitists,
Unseasonably Cool is exactly that, the sort of album that makes folks who don't like jazz want to listen. Popular jazz? What a concept.
Sound Quality: 4 stars
Enjoyment: 4 stars