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Unconventional Wisdom by Randy Sandke

That first note hits like a lightning bolt, followed by dazzling high-speed improvisation on "Just One of Those Things." It's Randy Sandke, and you won't find a more exciting trumpeter. Guitarist Howard Alden provides solid rhythm chords and matches Sandke in solo creativity and agility. The bassist is Nicki Parrott, a favorite of mine, and drummer John Riley moves with ease from the big band drum stool he occupied on Sandke's 2006 release on Evening Star, The Subway Ballet (highly recommended), to play tasty small group drums.

This January 2008 studio session displays the foursome in a program of standards and Sandke originals. "Ev'rytime We Say Goodbye" is pure beauty as bassist Parrott unveils her intimate voice over sensitive fills by Sandke. Reminds me somewhat of Blossom Dearie. Parrott sings again on Hoagy's traditional "New Orleans" which also includes sparkling solos by Sandke and Alden. Among the other standards are the group's Latin treatment of Bill Evans's " Funkallero" and a happy romp through Jobim's "Chega de Saudade." Sandke, once a guitarist, honors Django with his lyrics to "Django's Dream" a haunting Debussy composition which some may remember as "My Reverie."

The originals are interesting and accessible. "Meta Blue" updates the blues form. "December Down" is a moody piece with an early winter feeling. "Nicki's Journey," lively yet impressionistic, allows Parrott to meld voice and plucked bass, and features subtle drumming by Riley. Sandke, on flugelhorn, salutes his baby son with "Little Bix" and the session closes with one tender chorus of Victor Herbert's "Toyland" with Sandke accompanied only by Alden's guitar.

Sandke refuses to be categorized. He is well-regarded in traditional jazz circles. He played for Goodman. His heroes are Bix, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. He has this to say about "metatonality," the concept behind his current improvisations and compositions: " Metatonal music is music that is harmonically derived, as is tonal music, yet uses different harmonies in a different way...However, it is my sincere desire that those who hear it respond on an emotional level first before even considering the technical aspect of how this music is put together."

No problem! Randy Sandke's Unconventional Wisdom is superb cooking by a master chef and you don't have to know his recipe to enjoy your meal.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Randy Sandke
  • CD Title: Unconventional Wisdom
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Arbors
  • Tracks: Just One of Those Things, Ev´rytime We Say Goodbye, Meta Blue, New Orleans, The Best Thing For You, Nicki´s Journey, Django´s Dream, Little Bix, Chega de Saudade, December Down, For All We Know, We´re In Love, Funkallero, Toyland.
  • Musicians: Randy Sandke (trumpet,flugelhorn), Howard Alden (guitar), Nicki Parrott (bass,vocals), John Riley (drums).
  • Rating: Five Stars
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