Meetings With Remarkable Friends
Filled with vivid, absorbing pictures painted on intricate acoustic canvases, Artie Traum's Meetings With Remarkable Friends (Narada 72438-46957-2-9; 53:27) could easily have its title amended to Remarkable Meetings. The guitarist proves well prepared for such diverse partners as John Sebastian, Adrian Belew, and Wings guitarist Laurence Juber, providing beautiful settings to showcase each guest's unique talents. Among the many Remarkable highlights are "Golden Gate Fog," which finds David Grisman's mandolin hopping across a skeletal frame of gentle mood shifts laid out by Traum, and "Catskill Thunder," a dramatic, sad lullaby marked by Jay Unger's crying violin line. Traum rips loose from the lyrical poetry to exercise some wicked rootsy blues chops with The Band on "Yankee Swamp," and to tear it up with Juber on the hard-pitched guitar duo tour de force, "Swing Shift." Traum's sound paintings evoke darkly inviting swamplands ("Fourteen Turtles") and gentle music box memories ("Early Frost") with perfect, subtle dramatic pitch-and just in time to make this year's list of best releases.