Patuxent CD-126 Jordan Tice - No Place Better
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Young Annapolis native Jordan Tice picks the daylights out of his flattop guitar. He possesses the rock solid sense of time and aggressive attack of a seasoned bluegrass player. And yet what really distinguishes him as a musician is the broad range of musical styles that have nurtured his own unique approach to playing traditional music. With seminal albums like Drive (1987) and Strength and Numbers: The Telluride Sessions (1989), banjo player Bela Fleck, guitarist Tony Rice and mandolin virtuoso, Sam Bush pioneered a new slant on bluegrass known as "New Acoustic Music," by fusing the instrumentation rooted in Appalachian folk music with the harmonic language associated with modern jazz. Jordan cites each of these works along with the many others recorded by sidemen on the dates (e.g. Jerry Douglas Skip, Hop, Wobble, Edgar Meyer Short Trip Home) as primary influences on his music. Jordan’s tastes stretch still further into the realm of contemporary jazz. Pat Metheny, Keith Jarret and Bill Frisell have all influenced his unique brand of bluegrass. In fact, Jordan’s mentors, Tom Lagana and Rob Levit, are jazz guitarists. Though his ringing steel string solos and driving rhythm playing immediately betray their bluegrass pedigree, Jordan creates his solos against the backdrop of jazz influenced harmony.
The exciting sum of these influences, here wonderfully captured in Jordan’s first release for Patuxent Music, is marked by excellence in both execution and composition. The ensemble work and solos are impeccable, thanks to an all-star cast of players, each accomplished in his own right. Mark Schatz, the bassist renowned for his work on countless classic recordings of bluegrass music (including the aforementioned Drive), solos tastefully and anchors the arrangements with his steady lines. The metronome-like drive and singing solos of multi-instrumentalist Ron Stewart’s fiddle propel the music with remarkable precision. Ron’s career spans an early live recording opportunity with Lester Flatt to his current regular gig with J.D. Crowe. Maryland based banjo player Mike Munford, legendary for his work with the likes of Tony Rice and Sam Bush, contributes his creative and fresh brand of soloing that distinguishes him as (in Jordan’s words) “one of the most musical banjo players out there.” Similar in his unique style of soloing is mandolin player Akira Otsuka, who has shared the stage or recorded with bluegrass greats ranging from Jethro Burns to Ricky Skaggs.
Over the rich canvass of these world class musicians sing the ringing tones of Jordan Tice. His solos are precise and picked with conviction. He truly leads this group, a remarkable feat given his age and experience, both of which fall considerably short of those of the session’s other players. And yet, most precocious are his skills in composition and arrangement. Only two of the date’s tunes are standards (tracks…). All of the rest are Tice originals and none of these are restricted by simple formulaic constraints. From the deliberate beauty of tracks… to the relentless drive of tracks…, the introductions, codas and carefully crafted segues from solo to solo render the music most enjoyable even to the non-musician listener. This album showcases the work of a talented young man whose musical skill and creativity are equally marvelous. With any luck we’ll be hearing more from Jordan Tice.