A Different Kind of Rodeo

Bruce Von Stiers

Strange band names aren't limited to rock music. The jazz world has its share of strange or different band names. One such band from the jazz world is Cowboys & Frenchmen. This quintet just released their debut album, aptly titled Rodeo.

Rodeo was released on the Outside In Music label. It was produced by Levi Saelua. The album was recorded at the Peter Karl Studios in New York. It was mixed by Peter Karl and mastered by Nate Wood.

The members of the band are Ethan Helm, Owen Broder, Chris Ziemba, Ethan O'Reilly and Matt Honor. Three of them, Helm, Honor and Broder were undergrads together at Eastman School of Music. As was their producer, Saelua. Helm plays alto sax, flute and clarinet for the band. Broder plays alto sax, clarinet and bass clarinet. Honor is the band's drummer. O'Reilly is the bass player and Ziemba is the pianist.

Helm has been a part of the Gill Evans Project and has played with noted performers such as Collin Huggins, Jon Crowley and Cecilia Coleman. Broder has played at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, The Blue Note and many other venues. He also played with the Gill Evans Project. Honor plays with several ensembles in the New York jazz scene and was also involved in the Gill Evans Project. Ziemba has been known to play at venues such as Smalls, Jazz at Kitano and Dizzy's Club Coca Cola. He appeared with Ryan Truesdell at the Elmhurst Jazz Festival in 2014. O'Reilly studied with Don Braden and Mike LeDonne. He played with the William Paterson jazz orchestra during the China leg of their tour.

Jazz Styles is the first song. It has some strange sound effects at first, with something like cowbells & rattles. Then things move onto the music with drums, bass and horns. It is a rather different kind of jazz song that melds into standard fare with nice sax and piano.

King Barry, to me, sounded a bit like the background music in a film sequence, with me imagining a couple seeking out each other across a park.

A Bridge Inside My Mind has a lot of strong horn at first, then some stern sounding piano and subtle bass and drum.

Man of Constant Sorrow is a relatively fast paced tune with some great horn and piano music.

A bit of a surprise was the fifth song on the album. It was a rendition of the Beatles song Because. This is one of few Beatles songs I wasn't too familiar with. I listened to the original online to get a sense of what this instrumental rendition was doing. This new rendition sounded a bit to me like a New Orleans funeral styled lament.

Brode's Abode is another one of those songs that made me think of a film soundtrack. This time of a scene with a slight danger but not too heavy.

More is a song that is very busy, with a fast pace. It has some cool drum in it.

The album concludes with a deep and somewhat sorrowful sounding lament called Bells of Mindfulness.

With the name of the band and the title of its debut album, I didn't quite know what to expect. Was this going to be a weird concoction of jazz and country? Traditional jazz, or something I hadn't even thought of? I was pleasantly surprised that the album didn't stray too far from conventional jazz music. The band incorporated elements of different styles into their music, including folk and pop, but never got completely away from a core jazz sound. I think that this album was a great way for the jazz community to become familiar with the band and their style of music.

You can grab a copy of Rodeo from amazon.com and other retailers.

Cowboys & Frenchmen have a web site where you can find out more about them and the album. That site is http://www.cowboysandfrenchmen.com/ . They also have a Facebook band page at https://www.facebook.com/cowboysandfrenchmen

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© 2016 Bruce E Von Stiers