Cool, evocative and full of wonderful understated playing, most notably by guitarist Timothy Young, Wayne Horvitz’s American Bandstand is outstanding. The line-up for this album same as Horvitz’s Zony Mash band, except that here Horvitz trades in his Hammond B3 for a return to the piano, while the rest of the band brings an acoustic approach to the material. With the volume turned way down, Horvitz and company set aside the cerebral Meters-esque rhythm work-outs of Zony Mash in favour of a subtle jazz sound that reflects the fact that three of the tunes were written as incidental music for theatre and film.
“Ben’s Music,” written for a production of Death of a Salesman, perfectly conveys the play’s somber mood of disappointment, while capturing something of the uneasy spookiness that the role of Ben, Willy Loman’s dead brother, has in the production. Here, and throughout American Bandstand, guitarist Young’s playing brings Marc Ribot to mind. Never overpowering, he stands out nevertheless by playing every one of his notes to the fullest effect, whether playing a lead or a complimentary role.
On the balance of American Bandstand, from the eastern-European tinged “Capricious Midnight” to the slinky “In the Ballroom,” the variety of rhythmic approaches underlines the fact that these are all top-notch players. More impressively though, the various approaches keep the sound fresh and interesting enough to stand up to repeated listening, without compromising the almost introspective mood that has been established. This is smart music for adults that should be sought out and rewarded with your dollar.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.