CRI (Composers Recordings Inc., a non-profit, composer-directed American new music label) introduced their "blueshift" imprint in 2001 with this unique merging of jazz and the music of Charles Ives. The recording itself, however, was made in November, 1988 at Tedesco Studios in New Jersey and engineered by Jon Rosenberg, produced by Matt Moran and Adam Good (the vibraphone player and the guitarist, respectively, on the recording). The other musicians are John Hollenbeck (drums and other percussion) and Oscar Noriega (alto saxophone and bass clarinet).
CRI states that Blueshift explores "new developments in the ongoing relationship between original composition and improvisation at the leading edge of modern American jazz."
As a jazz performance, this disc is in the field of modern free jazz improvisation. The songs upon which the performers improvise are ten from Ives' collection 114 Songs. The preponderance of songs chosen are the dreamy, visionary songs such as Thoreau, Memories, and Serenity. Ives' strange treatment of the revival hymn "At the River" is included, and so are the early "The Circus Band" and "Memories," which remind us that Ives was masterly in creating old-fashioned, sentimental tunes.
At some point in each performance, the song is played literally, with the woodwind instrument invariably taking the voice part. Good is outstanding in playing Ives' strange, most un-guitar-like chord progressions, and Moran's vibes are ideal for creating the misty, mysterious world of many of these songs.
Noriega's sax is a problem, mainly due to the extra-close recorded perspective that makes the rattling of moisture in the instrument much too apparent. But his interpretation of the vocal parts is outstanding, particularly in "Like a Sick Eagle," where he ideally captures Ives' requisite weak, defeated tone by sagging downward in quarter-tone glides. Words are printed, though not sung.