A few examples: ‘Take the J Train’ sounds, obviously, Ellington at the beginning streaming down through a subterranean passage and emerging in Harlem, but then the violin, pedal steel and banjo kick in, and the urban landscape has suddenly changes to somewhere in Appalachian mountains, and then the music gracefully fuses into the two where saxophones are at home with good time music. It is an exhilarating ride.
‘Garbanzos’ does its best as a Mariachi-inspired rag, while ‘Venice, Italy’ begins with the a nostalgic accordion tentatively tuning up at dawn in the Dorsoduro. It then morphs into something that sounds like Henry Mancini might have written in the 1960s with Inspector Clouseau pompously running around in circles. And tripping.
‘Threnody for Kennedy and Connally’ is an inspired piece of hilarity or is it? It starts as a Burlesque romp in which you can almost see the tassels going awhirl. But like the other pieces, it changes dramatically from bebop piano to balladic interlude and then to a Andrew Sisters-like chorus out of nowhere starts joyfully singing "Happy birthday to Kennedy with a tip of the hat to Mr. Connally" with a somber, uncertain ending. It is the juxtaposition of musical styles and moods that makes this music very compelling. One hopes the medicine show will come to town soon and play their own brand on subversive and entertaining music.