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Tim Posgate Hornband featuring Howard Johnson

Banjo Hockey

(Black Hen; US: 19 May 2009; UK: 3 Aug 2009)

At least Tim Posgate Hornband’s Banjo Hockey has an intriguing angle: Southern banjo picking with jazz undertones. The title reveals even more after a listen: Basically, it is code for “Canadian banjo jazz”. The jazz composer and bandleader from Toronto attempts to meld his two passions, banjo and jazz, into something in itself. Sometimes Posgate succeeds in melding the two, yet at other times, the different types don’t exactly work. “The Big Push” begins as a drone of Posgate’s guitar and Howard Johnson’s tuba (Miles Davis, Taj Mahal, and the Band) underscoring some bebop noodling. A section of free jazz interrupts the flow, but the melody returns to its droning. “City Folk” involves a complex style of banjo picking with accent notes by the horns, rather than simultaneously improvising different lines over a straight picking. 

Other times the meeting of the genres does not equal a fluid, consistent sound. On “Big Top Blues”, each player sticks so solidly to his or her genre that the mix does not sound like a whole song.  Rather, the opposing forces work against each other and sound like two or three different songs. The tuba and banjo would have probably been fine, but the addition of the trumpet (Lina Allemano) and clarinet (Quinsin Nachoff) changes the focus of the sound. Occasional blips, note fizzling, and off notes do not help the trumpet’s plight.


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