John Reischman

North of the Border

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The mandolin is so completely identified with folk music that North of the Border is often classified as a bluegrass or even a country album. That it is not is obvious from the first listen -- sometimes this is jazz that is informed by progressive bluegrass, sometimes bluegrass with jazzy overtones. This brilliant instrumental album swings wonderfully and sounds more akin to Django Reinhardt than anything in the typical bluegrass collection. In fact, on the opening cut, violinist David Balakrishnan's solo sounds distinctly like Stephane Grappelli, so much that you might wonder if you accidentally put in the wrong CD. True, "Big Bug" is recognizably bluegrass, though played at breathtaking speed and with a certain jazzy freedom. Other cuts draw from Mexican and Cuban music without ever losing the sonic signature of John Reischman's deft picking. The credit doesn't all go to him, though, as the ensemble that Reischman formed to make this music meshes flawlessly. If North of the Border convinces one jazz fan to listen to progressive bluegrass and one bluegrass fan to start listening to jazz, it has done something worth doing.

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