Sometimes you know how good a band is in the first two choruses. That happened to me with RAGSTRETCH, whose debut CD I am reviewing belatedly. True, I knew two members of the band through hearing them several times in New York City: trombonist / singer Shannon Barnett and trumpeter / singer Bjorn Ingelstam, so I was already eager to hear the CD. But I was unprepared for just how hot and expert this Australian – Scandinavian jazz hybrid is.
By the way, you can skip my encomia and go directly here, which is the band’s website. Here you can sample the sounds and buy the CD.
The other 4/6 of this sextet: Chris Tanner, clarinet / vocals; Craig Fermanis, guitar; Sam Anning, string bass; Rajiv Jayaweera, drums.
The repertoire is familiar but the treatment is energized: DANS LA RUE D’ANTIBES / WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM / JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE / ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / MY MONDAY DATE / JAZZ ME BLUES / FOOLIN’ MYSELF / WHY DON’T YOU GO DOWN TO NEW ORLEANS / ROCKIN’ CHAIR / PANAMA / SWEET LORRAINE / I’LL BE YOUR BABY TONIGHT.
“Energized” in this case doesn’t mean loud or fast, although Ragstretch is capable of playing romping tempos without rushing or dragging: it means that they are expert at conveying enthusiasm — musically, without jokes. It also means that they have, individually and as a group, heard a wide variety of jazz and pop, and they bring their awareness to the repertoire. It doesn’t mean that the solo work in JAZZ ME BLUES (for one example) sounds like Blue Note sixties hard bop, but it also means that this band knows that the music continued even after the death of Bunk Johnson. There’s a joyous playfulness and charging rhythm that many other better-known bands could learn from.
I have no license to practice medicine, but I prescribe RAGSTRETCH and their CD as a proven mood-enhancer . . . without side effects. It made me feel better. What more could anyone say?