Jazz Mandolin Project - The Deep Forbidden Lake CD

Over the past decade, Jazz Mandolin Project has been making music that steadily evolved. In the late 90’s the sound was born of jazz and shot through with heaps of improvisation and exploration. The unique sound of Jamie Masefield’s zig-zagging mandolin gave the music an unmistakable quality, and he employed various rhythm sections to form intrepid trios (one of which included Jon Fishman) that skittered their sounds across stages at clubs and festivals with brainy glee. The self-titled and Tour De Flux albums seemed to mark a clear path that Masefield would return to again and again.
Not one to settle down for long, Masefield began injecting larger and larger amounts of electronic mayhem and breakneck grooves into the JMP sound, and the airy compositions were soon replaced by squalls of effects and powerful rhythms. With the 2003 release Jungle Tango, it seemed Masefield was looking to take his concept to the farthest possible galactic outpost of fusion.

The next album should be outrageous, given this trend, right? Surely the mandolin won't even sound like a mandolin by the time all is said and done.

Refreshingly, The Deep Forbidden Lake is exactly what no one was expecting. This album is truly personal, and adheres to Masefield's insistence that JMP is all about playing what the musicians are into at that moment. Masefield indulges himself in 12 of his favorite songs with the help of pianist Gil Goldstein and bassist Greg Cohen.

Tunes from jazzers like Django Reinhardt, Horace Silver, Billy Strayhorn, and Ornette Coleman should be no surprise on this track list; it's plain to see their influence on Masefield, and each of these classic tunes is reinterpreted with reverence and relaxation. Intimate production values let you hear every nuance of Goldstein's fanciful fingerwork and Masefield's pliable plucking, while Cohen's steady hands provide just the right basis for their frolicking solos.

Of utmost interest here are the lyrical tunes from artists like Radiohead, Neil Young, and Tom Waits. Radiohead's "Everything In It's Right Place" is treated with faithful spookiness, with it's haunting piano melody intact and Masefield slyly reinventing Thom Yorke's vocals on the mandolin. As far as I can tell, the sound that resembles a bass drum is Cohen producing some sort of "thud" on the body of his bass. Perhaps now that I've heard a Radiohead song with accordion, I can truly say my purpose on earth has been fulfilled. Radiohead fan Jamie Masefield also tackles "I Will" from Hail To The Thief, and this track boasts the only synthetic sounds on the disc. Soon after, the trio begins dissecting the song's dreary tones with restraint and feeling.

Neil Young is the inspiration for two covers here, one being the album's namesake and the other the first track on the disc ("Winterlong"). All in all, this disc is a microcosm of the influences that have shaped the JMP sound over the years, from the plantative songs of Waits and Young to the futuristic abyss of Radiohead and the timeless compositions of Reinhardt. Apparently the path JMP was following led to a sheer cliff that plummeted Masefield into a canyon of his inspirations.

--Bryan Rodgers