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Bamboo Blue
By Chasm
Label: Sticks and Stones Music
Released 1/1/2008
Bamboo Blue tracks
1. Bamboo Blues  
2. Close To Earth  
3. Potamus Walk  
4. Orangutan Tango  
5. Soothsayer Swing  
6. Andy Goes To Havana  
7. 96 Coconuts  
8. Laguna De Luna  
9. Now What?  
10. Spice Island  
11. A Balance Of Extremes  
Bamboo Blue
Chasm is an ensemble comprised of Mark Esakoff (classical and slide guitar, ukulele, luitar, and marimba), Michael Whipple (flutes, tenor recorder, keyboards, congas, and percussion), Brad Strickland (classical guitar and electric sitar), Arne Anselm (bass) and Aaron Winters (drum kit, djembe, and cowbell), Guest artists on this, their third album, are Brad Ranola (drums, bongos, cajon), Bodhi Jones (bass and drums) and Mark Freddy (danmo, angklung and vocals). All the artists contribute solidly and everyone seems to take their turns in the spotlight. Bamboo Blue is an extremely enjoyable acoustic (for the most part) jazz/world fusion recording, heavy on ethnic rhythm, pulsing with cross-cultural influences at every turn, yet injected to the brim with jazz, funk and blues at every turn. These cats can play and that's no lie! Bamboo Blue is not a lazy and rainy Saturday afternoon disc. Nope, this is one is for lively parties where people are dancing, making merry mayhem and laughing their asses off. Put this CD on, clear a space either in the backyard or, if it's large enough, the living room, and watch out as people start to gyrate every which way. Even the couch potatoes will probably start snapping fingers and tapping toes.

Diversity abounds on this recording. The title track carries a samba-esque beat but Whipple's recorder brings a Native influence to the party - an unexpected twist. Esakoff's marimba further stirs the melting pot, and whoever pealed off those classical guitar licks really ignited his fretboard! Close to Earth features marimba in the background lending a jazzy undercurrent to the tune while the heavy lifting is accorded Strickland's electric sitar (played in a jazzy vein yet also reminding this old hippie of many psychedelic recordings from the '60s) plus lots of great guitar work and thumping beats from the drum kit and bongos. Herbie Mann-ish flute gets thrown into the mix and well, damn, this music just flat out kicks yer ass!

Ahh, here comes the mellow bass and "hep-cat" era bongos of Potamus Walk made even hipper with marimba in the forefront as well as more of that way-cool flute work. This tune and Soothsayer Swing may remind oldsters (yeah, I'm talkin' to you out there,, I'm not the only one) of themes from some classic cult TV shows from the past e,g, The Saint and T.H.E. Cat when the whole bongo/marimba/flute combination was king, baby! I love these two songs, especially "Soothsayer Sing." Andy Goes to Havana is, of course, a nod toward that island's musical influence, but with much more than that going on as well. The overt Cuban flavor is thrown into the spice grinder and then infused with more than a few other flavors to yield a true fusion of styles, in this case jazzy-bluesy piano runs and laid back riffs on the guitar. Snazzy.. very snazzy! Now What? seems to draw its inspiration from its very title, as if the assembled musicians turned to each other and just said "Let's go for it." Featuring the most thunderous drum work on the CD, the song has lots of energy but also plenty of hot licks on guitar as well as a nice marimba solo and some solid flute playing. Despite the fast tempo and high energy level, it's not so revved up as to derail the congenial and cheery mood established by the other tracks here. The album ends with A Balance of Extremes, a vocal tune, the lyrical content which is more than a little subversive if you listen to them. It reminds me a bit (message-wise) of the late Kirsty MacColl’s "Walking Down Madison."

Bamboo Blue is simply too much fun. If these cats didn't have a blast recording this album, I'd be shocked. Of course, they did all the hard work and we get to have all the pleasure - not a bad deal in my book. So, dear readers, if you don't have a good time listening to this CD, get a life, ya damn grouches! Or, as they say on, "Lighten up, Francis!"

Rating: Very Good   Very Good
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 6/18/2008
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