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Jeremy Udden: Folk Art

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Stoked by Brandon Seabrook’s convulsive banjo, saxophonist Jeremy Udden’s ultra-spare 2009 album, Plainville, was such a strikingly original blend of jazz and Americana, a kind of Kind of Blue for the roots set, it has proved a difficult act to follow. In taking the music to its next stage, Udden’s more plugged-in followup, If the Past Seems So Bright, had some great stretches but also some diffuse ones. Refining his sound on Folk Art he again draws us in with his eerie understatement.

Most of the album consists of a suite performed by a quartet including Seabrook, bassist Jeremy Stratton and drummer Kenny Wollesen, with solo acoustic guitar interludes by Nathan Blehar and Will Graefe. The plaintive, atmospheric music draws intensity from its pairings: Alto saxophonist Udden’s sudden streaming of notes over Seabrook’s excitable picking on “Bartok,” Seabrook urgently plinking over Wollesen’s rolling figures on “Up.” “Our Hero” boasts a lively Ornette Coleman-like melody.

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