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"Both Sides Now"
RJ Lannan And Bill Binkelman opine from "Both Sides Now"
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By Jeff Oster
Label: Retso Records
Released 8/28/2007
True tracks
1. Saturn Calling
2. This Place
3. Serengeti
4. Violet
5. Tibet
6. Sounds Like Sunshine
7. Once In A Blue Moonlight
8. On One Knee
9. From The Dreamtime
10. Mumbai
Flugelmeister Jeff Oster has spun out a new album called True. His first two recordings At Lastand Released were quite successful and with those albums and his flugelhorn he established a signature sound of refined beauty and multi-layered ambience. There is never an oompah-pah in this contemporary artist's repertoire. True is different from his first release At Last. This one is lighter and more aerial. At Last was more organically grounded. True is a travelogue of sorts with a lot of movement. Musically Jeff does not stay in one place or on one continent for that matter. When you travel by Jeff Oster it no longer takes eighty days to go around the world. In fact you can travel to the stars and beyond instantly.

You can hear a scream in space. This scream is the sound of light as the aurora of Saturn paints cosmic pictures in the heavens. This eerie sound is incorporated in the opening track Saturn Calling. The pulsating quavers integrate into the song like a cosmic carrot that says we can exceed our earthily grasp. It applies to all aspects of our lives.

Violet is my favorite on the album. This blossoming song with its echoing horn, drowsy piano and gentle guitar is a call to stop and smell the...well, the violets. We have to take time to make time in our lives for the things that are really important. It does not matter whether you are stooping down to catch a glimpse of tiny purple flowers in the backyard or holding the delicate hand of your lover and admiring a violet sky at sunset. Take the time.

With a tip of the hat to Sammy Rose, Jeff's daughter, we get the dazzling cut Sounds Like Sunshine. We borrow from a child's imagination to feel the warm rays of the sun touching soft skin, bright illumination that highlights all the discoveries waiting to be found around us, and the daily promise that life will begin again on the morrow.

True has that magical touch by producer/guitarist Will Ackerman that is quite distinctive. Of course, Jeff's entire album is shaped by the Imaginary Road Studios and the list of usual suspects, T. Bone Wolk, Eugene Friesen, Philip Aaberg, Michael Manring and vocalists Samite and Melissa R. Kaplan. The best song on True is called On One Knee. It is a romantic ballad that overlooks the nervousness of the moment and celebrates the joy of a positive response.

Our journey with Jeff continues to exotic places such as Mumbai, Tibet and the Serengeti and the music makes the trip exciting and fun. I like to put this album in the CD player of my truck and, as we say around here, burn up the roads. For a contemporary musical journey, you must be "True". It may take you to just the place you want to be.

Rating: Very Good+ - RJ Lannan

Trumpet/flugelhorn player Jeff Oster blossoms into a real artistic force in contemporary instrumental music with True. Once again produced by Will Ackerman, Oster has also again surrounded himself with some amazing talent (e.g. T. Bone Wolk and Michael Manring on bass, Philip Aaberg on keyboards, and Eugene Friesen on cello, to name just a few). Oster expands his musical palette even broader this time around, with elements of jazz fusion, world beat, electronica, and new age sprinkled throughout the album. No matter which genre, everything the man touches turns to gold, due in no small part to his composing talent (he wrote or co-wrote every song). It might sound like hyperbole, but we may be witnessing the emergence of the next instrumental superstar.

I don’t have the space to detail all ten tracks and do them justice, yet I’m confounded about which to leave out. Saturn Calling features actual radio emissions from the titular planet and starts out appropriately spacy before a thumping bass beat, trap kit drums, and cascading synths, as well as Oster's own echoed flugelhorn, convey a feeling of cruising the cosmos, switching from billowy floating to dramatic rhythmic passages. This Place comes creeping in via Aaberg's evocative echoed piano as well as shimmering keyboards and shuffling trippy beats from Jan Pulsford (who contributes elsewhere on the CD, too). Oster's flugelhorn and muted trumpet evokes vast spaciousness yet also a forlorn sense of isolation. It's one of the best tracks Oster has ever recorded.

Despite its title, Serengeti, (owing to the presence of Ugandan vocalist Samite who sings in his native tongue of the importance of this special region), is less "worldly," and more a bouncy midtempo tune with a funky rhythm and a rolling melody that feels as if one was flying low over the African landscape. During the vocal passage, world beat percussion finally lends some ethnic feel to the piece. Sounds Like Sunshine has a big bold sound, cheerful and upbeat, and an infectious midtempo rhythm. Once in a Blue Moonlight (another tune co-written by the talented Pulsford) pulses with a sensual rockish/funky beat featuring some snazzy wordless vocals by Melissa Kaplan (her voice reminds me of Harriet Wheeler, vocalist for The Sundays) and she really cuts loose later in the track.

There's so much more I could write about: the pensive somber ballad, On One Knee, co-wrtten by Ackerman, the enchanting mystical world fusion number From the Dreamtime, and the tear-the-roof-off rollicking jazz-meets-world beat album closer, Mumbai. Jeff Oster (and all the talented artists who contributed to this disc) really raised the bar on this one. Brimming with the sheer love of making music (all types, moods, and tempos) True is a celebration of passion, artistry, soul and engineering/production wizardry. This being only his second full-length release, one is left to ponder the heights Oster (and company) may reach. Highly recommended.

Rating: Excellent - Bill Binkelman

Combined Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by RJ Lannan / Bill Binkelman on 8/12/2007
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