This album Through the Badlands is best enjoyed if you listen to it, eyes closed, as if it were an elaborate comic opera without words. The plot is fair old sense and nonsense comprising a series of elaborate farcical stories and jokes at the expense of ‘Cowboy Art’ a sort of throwback on a character from the old west, which is also peopled by the ghosts of characters such as Ambrose Bierce and other nameless buckaroos who would be chewing tobacco were it not for the fact that reality bites and they are otherwise required to appear in the roles of virtuoso musicians. That, in fact, is the biggest joke perpetrated upon the listener – unsuspecting or otherwise. Fade to black.
Arthur Vint’s fortune as a drummer was built on a keen ear for instrumental sonority, a gift for writing appealing melodies and an instinct for rhythmic pulse and pacing that makes this pantomime all the more interesting as it can be enjoyed for its canter and gallop, and swagger that is brought to it by a stellar cast of musicians who include bassist Ian Stapp, pianist Jon Cowherd, guitarist Tony Scherr, bass clarinettist Andrew Halchah, tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, harmonica rising star Yvonnick Prene and another star, the violinist Blanca Cecilia Gonzalez. As the plot thickens from halfway through the album it pays to cue in Ambrose Bierce, best-known for his ‘Devil’s Dictionary’, a cheeky song of sardonic beauty which melts into Neil Young’s song ‘There’s a World’ before hightailing it into the wind on ‘Blue Prairie’.
This album approaches audacious high drama at high noon. The suite of songs may be compared to a score that offers many delights and the performers have enormous fun with it. It is deadpan comic, makes numerous cheeky interventions during the performance and yet is always masterfully crafted even in its most impromptu moments, all of which adds not only rare jollity but a strong sense of musicality to the proceedings. The performance of the musicians is enormously accomplished and the excellent recording shows that a good time was had by all. It’s a pity, however, that the animated illustration on the cover was not carried through (more elaborately) on the inside of the package. Barring that, though, this is a masterfully conceived album.
Track List: Radford; Through the Badlands; Heyoka; Sagebrush; Kindling; LKP; Shadow Qualities; Maski; Devil’s Dictionary; There’s a World; Blue Prairie.
Personnel: Arthur Vint: drums; Ian Stapp: bass; Jon Cowherd: piano; Tony Scherr: guitar; Andrew Halchah: bass clarinet; Rich Perry: tenor saxophone; Yvonnick Prene: harmonica; Blanca Cecilia Gonzalez: violin.
Release date: January 2016
Running time: 58:39
Buy album on: amazon