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Jerry Granelli: Sandhills Reunion

Drummer-conceptualist Jerry Granelli collaborates here with actor-playwright-singer Rinde Eckert and a septet that includes clarinetist Francois Houle, bass clarinetist Jeff Reilly, baritone saxophonist David Mott, guitarist Christian Kogel, cellist Christoph Both and bassist/steel guitarist J. Anthony Granelli. Each member of the ensemble contributes compositionally, and the music’s built around a set of poems by Eckert, linked thematically by depictions of the 19th-century outlaw Billy the Kid and the Sandhills region of northwest Nebraska. But the group composed and recorded the music without specific knowledge of the text; Granelli compiled the music and added Eckert’s recitations after the fact. It says a great deal about Granelli’s overall vision that the music and text melds so completely.

The music is mostly sui generis; “Just Angels”-a depiction of a visit to a strip joint-has the most pronounced jazz content. The music ranges in style from contemporary classical (“Nolan”) to Frisell-esque soundscapes (“Last Night”) and minimalist funk (“Your Voice”). Whatever the bag, it’s inspired. Eckert’s prose is Richard Ford-like in the way it evokes the physical and emotional wide-open spaces of the American West. It’s not spontaneous, it doesn’t swing, but it moves the soul, and that’s the bottom line.

Originally Published