After a brief pump organ intro, Brandon Seabrook's banjo picks up the rhythm of title track, as Udden's breathy alto intones the sweet and somewhat sad melody over layers of pedal steel. Listening to this tune conjures forth images of white picket fences and abandoned storefronts in a small northeastern town. With its waltzing trashy percussion and herky-jerky waltz rhythm, 'Red Coat Lane' reminds me a bit some of the things Ori Kaplan recorded for the Knitting Factory label back in the late 90s. Seabrook, a mainstay of the downtown NYC Klezmer scene, contributes a brief, madcap banjo solo before Udden's lovely lyrical alto takes over. Udden, a featured soloist in Boston's own Either / Orchestra, possesses formidable technique; his probing, fluid and intelligent alto has a Konitz-like flair. The mood gets quite a bit darker on 'Curbs.' Driven by Seabrook's angry electric guitar and Pete Rende's chiming Fender Rhodes, the rhythmically-displaced melody gives the piece a urgent feeling that is reinforced by Seabrook's effects-laden guitar solo. 'Big Lick' utilizes some of the same devices in completely different way. Easily the most uptempo piece on the CD, it comes across as a punked-out version of something John Hollenbeck might have written. Again, Seabrook's imaginative, manic, and distortion-drenched solo provides another highlight before Udden, initially accompanied only by Opsvik, reclaims the spotlight with his finest, and most adventurous, solo of the CD.
"Plainville" is dominated, however, by music of a quieter, humbler sort. When the melodies are as lovely as 'Christmas Song' and 'The Reunion,' this is a good thing - one would tend not to bury gems like these in layers of guitar distortion and polyrhythmic drums. The same goes for the spooky ballad, 'Modest,' which actually gets a lot of mileage out of Pete Rende's distorted Rhodes chords in the background. Here, Udden turns in a remarkably lovely solo over Opsvik's dark and sinewy bass. With its strummed acoustic guitar intro and sunny-yet-sad melody, '695' sounds a bit like something the Pat Metheny Group might have a go at. Rende's Rhodes solo ends that comparison in its tracks, however. 'Empty Lots' ends the CD on a somber note - bathed in the sizzle of malleted cymbals, strummed acoustic guitar, and wheezy pump organ, Udden follows a beautiful solo by Opsvik with the quietly hymnic, Coltrane-like melody and his own lyrical, intimate solo.
"Plainville" is a beautiful, and honest expression of an artist who strives to do more than regurgitate jazz clichés. Jeremy Udden's music goes way beyond the eclecticism you'd expect from a jazz group that features a front line of pump organ (or pedal steel), banjo, and sax. It's fascinating that music so elemental, basic, and emotionally direct can be so obviously forward-looking.