It would take a book, and there is one, to fully describe Sandke's metatonal approach which is based on "the use of chords beyond the scope of traditional harmony." This does not always make for "easy" listening (although fun to listen to) but the end result is the inventive use of big band instrumentation in various combinations. There is no piano. Vibes and the xylophone are a better fit.
We are whisked rapidly between stations on steel wheels with momentum provided by bassist Greg Cohen and the Sandke charts. The soloists have no problem with this time limitation. No surprise given their high caliber: Sandke, Wycliffe Gordon, Steven Bernstein, Ted Nash, Walt Wieskopf and Cohen.
As we board, Sandke's solo and low-register instrumentation create a threatening mood as taunting downtown punks enter. Wall Street means brokers and their music, with Jack Stuckey on bass clarinet, is stately and contained. Approaching 46th, it's diamond merchants and klezmer with special guest David Krakauer on clarinet. Then a musical encounter between a blind beggar and a Korean peddler ...trumpet and flute ... Sandke and Chuck Wilson. Swing and chaos feature a meeting of midtown career girls and those punks. Then there's a beautiful pas de deux and we depart at 125th to a vibrant mix of blues, salsa and urban dissonance.
"Music from 1988" presents four previously unreleased Sandke originals. In a quintet setting he collaborates with Gerry Niewood in a probing and down-and-dirty exploration of the blues, and the contemporary classical " How Did It Get So Late?". He then goes electric, accompanied by John Hayward on drum machine. Sandke delivers a high-energy guitar solo on "Happy Birthday Berlin" and pulls out his piccolo trumpet for the festive closer, "Realization."
The recent affiliation of this multi-faceted artist with Evening Star Records has already resulted in four exciting releases and bodes well for the musician, the label, and us, the listeners.