Will Patton: Vermont, Mandolin & Jazz – Unique Vermont Musicians

While many people think of the mandolin as a melody instrument in a bluegrass band, or perhaps an iconic instrumental voice in Italian music, it has in recent years become one of the lead voices in jazz, continental and Brazilian music. (It shines in klezmer, Celtic and old-time styles as well.) If you’re grappling for the name of a top American mandolinist, you might come up with David Grisman or Sam Bush, both bluegrass stalwarts. And the late Jethro Burns was an early devotee of jazz mandolin. Vermont has its own mandolin star in Will Patton and he and his ensemble have just released their fourth CD which continues their exploration of jazz and choro music from Brazil. On “6th St. Runaround,” the new CD we find Patton comfortably supported by guitarist Steve Blair, string bassist Clyde Stats, David Gusakov on violin and drummer Skeeter Camera. There are also frequent appearances by Anna Patton on clarinet, Gabe Jarrett on drums and Dono Schabner on guitar.While Patton leads the band, this is not an album dominated by mandolin with back-up performers. It’s true ensemble work. Patton is a fine musician who also plays guitar and bass on the CD. His well-worn Gibson A model mandolin (also the choice for klezmer/bluegrass mandolinist Andy Statman) has a warm rich sound, and his chops are impeccable. But, with players like Gusakov, Blair and Anna Patton contributing, there is plenty of space for each musician to take a lead. Thus we have a program of soft, non-jarring jazz presented by some of the best musicians found in this state. Patton’s music is thoughtful, melodic, true to its idiom, and generally without pretense. After four albums with stalwart friends in the studio, these mature musicians can flesh out tunes with the best of them. I think sometimes Vermont is not given its due when it comes to jazz. With the musicians presented here, we have proof that jazz has found a sympathetic home among the maples and back roads. For his ensemble Patton has chosen fine musicians. Blair has toured extensively in the United States, Canada and overseas when he isn’t teaching in the jazz program at Johnson State College. Gusakov is a member of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra but also has a long career in bluegrass music. Stats also teaches at Johnson State. Over the years he has become the bassist of choice for many Vermont musical projects. Camera has drummed in Parisian jazz clubs and Greenwich Village. Anna Patton, Will’s daughter, tours with various contradance groups. Together, the ensemble makes sweet music. This is an album that flows with bouncy music, many of the tunes composed by Patton. He also includes music from Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian in “Breakfast Feud,” aand the Mercer, Van Heusen song “I Thought about You.” Writing in a jazz or choro idiom Patton develops melodies that he and the other players can expand upon with each soloist adding their own flavoring. There’s a lot of collective improvisation here as the group focuses a bit more on upbeat jazz than it has on its previous three CDs. In all, we get an album that swings without punching out the speakers of the sound system…Read More At The Times Argus