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John Jorgenson

Divertuoso

Review by Gary Hill

This three CD box set is expansive, both in terms of the amount of music and the scope of the sounds. It is a collection of three separate and different (but all new) albums. The John Jorgenson Quintet disc makes me think of Django Reinhardt quite a bit. The biggest outstanding factor on the bluegrass album is the abundance of great vocal harmonies. Only the final disc is purely instrumental, that one landing more in guitar hero territory. If you like great guitar playing and want to hear a varied set of styles featuring that, give this a try. You will not be disappointed.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1 – John Jorgenson Quintet – Returning

    
Sonora Spring

Killer flamenco guitar is heard as this opens. The song moves forward around that musical concept, with the other instruments backing and supporting that instrumental foray. This is a great melodic journey with a lot of jazz and world music in the mix.

Sand Away the Years
I love the old school jazz and world music sounds on this killer jam. There is some great violin, and of course, the guitar is exceptional, too.
San Sebastien
Spanish guitar and other world sounds are built into this energetic piece. It feels a lot like klesmer music to me. Again, I really love the violin soloing on this piece.
Waiting for the Fog to Rise
A mellower, and slower paced cut, there is a sadness to this track. It’s also quite beautiful. As it grows it gains intensity and pace.
Born Too Late
There is some definite rag-time in this, I’d say. It’s a fun little number that has a lot of energy.
It Only Takes a Secret
World music, fusion and even hints of prog rock show up on this killer tune. It’s a very beautiful and melodic piece. It doesn’t sacrifice energy and rhythm for it, though. The jam at the end really brings that rock angle to the fore.
Istiqbal Gathering
Energized and powerful, this has a lot of Middle-Eastern sound built into it. It’s a fast paced and smoking hot instrumental. There are some particularly powerful passages of melody on this piece. It works out to an almost Beatles-like powered up jam later, too. Then we’re brought back into the Middle-East to continue.
If I Only Knew You Cared
An old time jazz jam is the basis for this number. It really feels like something that would have been at home in the 1920s or 1930s. It’s classic and classy. It’s also a lot of fun with a healthy dosage of nostalgia. There is some smoking hot jamming later.
Black Swan
 Somehow the beginning of this (a mellow solo) makes me think of something Steve Howe might do. It does work to more classically tinged music as it continues. The arrangement fills out a bit as they march forward with the other instruments lending more sonic flavors. Eventually it works out to something not far removed from progressive rock. From there it drops back to earlier modes to continue toward the ending.
I’ve Got My Fingers Crossed
An old-school rag time kind of piece, this one has vocals, breaking from the rest. It’s bouncy and a lot of fun. It’s another that’s a real slab of nostalgia.
Inches & Feet
Jazz, prog rock and fusion are all merged on this killer piece. It’s full of energy and some great melodic expressions. It still has some world music built into it, though. I particularly like the piano solo on this thing. The violin brings some hints of country to the mix, along with klesmer music.
Wistfully Waltzing
This is, as the title suggests, a waltz. It’s full of world music and jazz textures. It’s a fun number.
Sonora Spring (Reprise)
Truth in advertising, the opening track gets a revisit on the closing one, lending a nice bookend quality to the album. This is no short bit, though, working through a lot of shifts and changes. We even get a drum solo on the track.
Disc 2 – J2B2 – From the Crow’s Nest
           
Beautiful Sound

Fast paced bluegrass, this has a bit of a Grateful Dead edge to it. Still, it’s also got plenty of Flat and Scruggs.

I Will Shelter You
A bit less of the old school bluegrass sound is present here. This feels a bit like folk music in a lot of ways.
Wait a Minute
This song really showcases how much the Grateful Dead were influenced by bluegrass music. That’s because this really does sound like something the Dead would do. There is a lot of 1970s soft rock in the mix here, too.
Wandering Boy
More pure folk in nature, this is mellower, slower and very dramatic. It’s quite a pretty cut. In fact, it might be my favorite on this particular disc of the set.
There is a Time
Here’s another that’s particularly strong. Bluegrass, folk music and even some rock blend here. This is just so poignant and evocative. Besides, I dare you to try not to sing along with this song.
Ladies Bluff
An instrumental, this is fast paced and more pure bluegrass. That said, I can hear hints of jazz in this. It’s packed full of great playing and soloing.
Travelin’ Angels
This is very much a country based bluegrass tune. I love the vocal harmonies on this. The cut is another strong one.
No One Else
Set in an energized folk and country style, this is a great bluegrass tune.
Die Tryin’
Folk music is the overarching sound here. Of course, we still get plenty of bluegrass on this great tune.
If You Could See
This cut is very much a soft rock tune. Sure, there is still some bluegrass in the mix. I guess you could also call it folk music, but overall, this is a rock ballad. It’s a great tune, too.
Feather
Another instrumental piece, this feels a lot like traveling music to me. It’s packed with bluegrass goodness and is a lot of fun.
A Heart Always True
Now, this has a real old time country sound to it. It feels like something that might have been on the Grand Ol Opry stage in it heyday.
Let Me Get Out of this World Alive
Old time country and gospel seem to merge here. This is pretty, but not really a standout.
Gina
Did I mention Flat and Scruggs earlier? Well, this really feels like something they would have done. It’s another instrumental.
Whiskey Lullaby
Here’s another of my favorites on this disc of the set. It’s definitely got a lot of rock in the mix, but there is plenty of folk and bluegrass, too. It’s a sad tale, that’s also quite pretty in this delivery.
Disc 3 – John Jorgenson – Gifts from the Flood
      
61 SGLP 1

We power out into some smoking hot rock here. This is part fusion, part prog rock and all cool. This one seems to stay around a little too long and end a bit too abruptly.

Jazzmaster 1
I love the beautiful harmonics on this mellower piece of music. This is intricate and quite pretty. As it builds out at first it seems to have both progressive rock and fusion in the mix. When it really explodes forward from there we get even more prog rock in the neo-classical stylings.
70 LP Custom 1
To me this jam feels like The Allman Brothers do a fusion, country rock hybrid jam. It’s a good time. I like the energy and the groove.
64 SG Custom 3
Feeling a lot like something Joe Satriani or Steve Vai might do, this is solid rock with some jazz in the mix. It’s another great jam, really.
67 Strat 2
Drums start this. Organ joins. Then the guitar comes in bringing a blues rock turned country kind of sound. It’s definitely a cool jam and a solid tune.
Firebird
Stylistically, this is closer to “64 SG Custom 3,” but it’s not the same song by any means. It’s another classy instrumental, though.
Sunburst Tele 2 (with Brad Paisley)
As you might guess by the guest appearance, this is a high energy country tune. It’s a lot of fun.
Sunburst Tele 1
A bit echoey, this has a cool Americana meets jazz sort of bent to it. It’s a very mellow cut that’s quite pretty. There is some particularly cool soloing on this. At times it actually makes me think of David Gilmour a bit.
67 Strat 1
A mellower jam, this almost makes me think of a fusion version of the Eagles in some ways. It’s another killer cut on a disc that has no shortage of them. Some of the soloing in the more powered up movement makes me think of Gilmour again.
Paisley Tele 1
The keyboards add a lot to this arrangement. It’s very much a retro sounding jazzy piece of music. It’s melodic and classy.
Jazzmaster 2
Here we get another fusion meets guitar hero kind of piece. It’s not bad, but perhaps a little redundant.
66 Silvertone 1
A very mellow number, this is definitely classy jazz.

 

 

 
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