Andy Biskin & 16 Tons | Songs from the Alan Lomax Collection

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Songs from the Alan Lomax Collection

by Andy Biskin & 16 Tons

American Folk Songs collected by Alan Lomax, reimagined for clarinet, drums, and a choir of three trumpets.
Genre: Jazz: Contemporary Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Sweet Betsy from Pike
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
2:36 album only
2. Grey Goose
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
3:23 album only
3. Blue Tale Fly
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
6:41 album only
4. Down in the Valley
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
5:01 album only
5. House Carpenter
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
3:08 album only
6. Go Fish
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
8:00 album only
7. Lily Munroe
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
3:06 album only
8. Tom Dooley
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
4:52 album only
9. Muskrat
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
4:08 album only
10. Knock John Booker
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
3:47 album only
11. Am I Born to Die?
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
3:46 album only
12. She'll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
5:37 album only
13. Sweet Betsy from Pike (Reprise)
Andy Biskin & 16 Tons
0:49 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
"Andy Biskin seeks to find the threads between old European folk music, early American songforms and the contemporary avant-garde." —Downbeat

Clarinetist and composer Andy Biskin, who has been hailed by The New Yorker as “ahead of the curve, long gifted at balancing his musical-Americana fixation with side trips into regions unexplored” has turned his probing and original musical mind to legendary folklorist Alan Lomax. His new CD, Songs from the Alan Lomax Collection with his group 16 Tons features Biskin’s idiosyncratic instrumental interpretations of a dozen songs chosen from Lomax’s mammoth 1960 anthology, The Folk Songs of North America. Biskin takes an unorthodox approach, blending the tunes with his own melodies, Ellingtonian touches, marching band riffs, chamber music sonorities, four-part chorales, and the manic energy of cartoon music to create wonderfully surprising versions of well-known favorites like “Down in the Valley” and “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” as well as more obscure ballads, hymns, and children’s game songs.

Biskin’s first job out of college was as a research assistant to Lomax. Decades later, after musical explorations that included Stephen Foster’s songs, Rube Goldberg’s inventions, and his own tinkerings with New Orleans music, he says “I needed to take another look at Alan’s legacy and see if I could find my own voice in the music he championed.”

16 Tons includes trumpeters John Carlson, Dave Smith, and Kenny Warren, along with drummer Rob Garcia. “I wanted to write for an ensemble that could mimic the call and response of a soloist with a chorus,” Biskin says of the unusual instrumentation. “And I wanted a band that could play both gently and brash, that could sound relaxed and ragged or as tight as a dance band.”

The arrangements are playful yet respectful of the originals. “Down in the Valley” invokes Stravinsky and Charles Ives, but Biskin’s forlorn clarinet keeps it solidly grounded in the melancholy of the original. “Blue Tail Fly” hints at the melody while detouring into realm of big band swing. Whether it’s the strutting funk version of “Knock John Booker” or the striking flugelhorn harmonies on “House Carpenter,” Biskin does indeed find his own voice in these distinctive re-imaginings of American classics.

Biskin leads several ensembles and has composed scores for film, dance, and theater. Born in San Antonio, Texas, and raised by musician parents, he studied music and anthropology at Yale and later began working as a video editor and director, producing documentaries and music-inspired videos. A chance meeting with composer Gunther Schuller on a New York elevator led to Schuller producing his debut album, Dogmental. The CD received widespread acclaim. Ben Ratliff named it Album of the Week in The New York Times, writing “it’s hard to find gentle humor in jazz, but the clarinetist Andy Biskin has perfect radar for it.”

Biskin’s subsequent CD releases include Early American: The Melodies of Stephen Foster, which made several best-of-the-year lists and received a four-star review in Downbeat. Biskin’s chamber jazz recording, Trio Tragico featuring bassist Drew Gress and trumpeter Dave Ballou, “is at once relaxed, ambitious and deceptive,” according to K. Leander Williams in Time Out New York.

His most recent CD, Act Necessary, features his group Ibid with cornetist Kirk Knuffke, trombonist Brian Drye, and drummer Jeff Davis, “It may be Biskin’s most light-hearted release to date while also achieving his finest balance of reverence and iconoclasm,” wrote Jeff Potter in his four-start Downbeat review. Biskin also performs with and composers for his clarinet quartet Reed Basket (Peter Hess, Mike McGinnis, Sam Sadigursky), and for the past several years, he has also been performing and touring his Goldberg’s Variations project, a suite of twelve Rube Goldberg “inventions” for which Biskin created video animations and a cartoon-music soundtrack for his sextet.

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