One sure thing, this CD's nothing but adventurous-trio, quintet and sextet arrangements are featured, along with singer JD Walter, whose voiced is used as an instrument. At times he delivers bursts of scat singing. As well, the pieces are diverse, ranging from Western, jazz staples and several originals which incorporate classical and cutting-edge elements.
As expected in this melange, some numbers come off well; others don’t. Though, in many cases, the vocal parts detract from a piece's effectiveness.
Emphatically, Ridl is a fine pianist and talented composer. On the first track, in an unusual choice of tunes, his fine piano work is displayed in a straight-ahead romping take on Hank Williams’ Western Classic "My Cheating" Heart," in a trio context with Jef Lee Johnson, guitar, and Jim Miller, drums.
Also out of its element but movingly rendered is "Tennessee Waltz," with a hauntingly beautiful solo by bassist Jim Varner, with Johnson’s mandolin in the background contributing a lovely antique burnish.
Juan Tizol’s classic "Caravan" fuses Ron Kerber’s soprano sax sound with Walter's wailing voice to effectively create the aura of Mid East exotica. Ridl’s furiously pounding piano brings the piece to its destination.
Ridl’s "Grazed By Light" is by far his strongest composition. He says in the liner notes that he was influenced by both a familiar Hebrew song and Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. What results is thoughtful and inspirational.
The piece, additionally, provides ample opportunity for the group to stand out in solos. Walter’s vocal effects work here too, again blending seamlessly with the sax. Later, though, when he goes into scat-singing cliches, the ethereal mood is broken.