One Track Mind: Dan White Sextet, “Camptown Races” (2013)

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Last year a sextet led by saxophonist Dan White made a cool record New York Sessions where the covers were just as interesting as the originals, especially their imaginative take on “Man Out Of You” from the Disney animated film Mulan. Since this sextet is so good at rearranging other people’s songs to the point of transforming them into alluring songs apart from the originals, it only made sense that the Dan White Sextet would make an all covers album next.

Dan White & Company once again goes outside of Tin Pan Alley for material. Sometimes jazz bands that like to think outside of the box will look for songs that are more obscure, but White went against the grain in choosing all tunes we’ve known since we were small kids. play, as this collection of vintage folk children’s tunes is called, includes such universally known ditties like “Three Blind Mice,” “Rock-a-bye Baby” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and the challenge for the Sextet was to make these old ditties sound fresh and vibrant. They did such a good job at that, they deserved songwriting co-credits for the way they transformed these songs.

play has so many to choose from, but I gotta come down on “Camptown Races,” an old nineteenth century song introduced to me as a kid by none other than that great crooner of Americana music, Foghorn Leghorn.

Trombonist Chris Ott’s arrangement of this Stephen Foster standard is superb. The song gets going with a newly invented groove, then transitions to the familiar theme expressed from Jon Lampley’s trumpet. From there, more modern motifs are inserted and mixed in with fragments of Foster’s original melody. Everyone from Ott to pianist Theron Brown gets to put their own stamp on it in precise moments that are tailored for them. Most importantly, the right balance is struck between making the song sound new again and leaving in enough cues to assure you of what song is being played.

They work that kind of modern magic on other selections of play such as a dope, hip-hop take on “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and a second-line jazz parade made out of “Home On The Range.” You can be certain that even though the album is full of lullabies and songs you might have been sick to death of by the age of ten, these renditions won’t put you to sleep and make you reach for the icepick. Instead, they might very well make you dig these songs all over again.

play goes on sale August 20. Visit The Dan White Sextet’s website for more info.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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