Going to the Sun – Sheriffs of Schroedingham

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Jason Ricci (Grammy Award winning harmonica virtuoso/educator/solo artist):  
    “I remember meeting Victor Wooten some 20 years ago in Jackson, Mississippi. I was only 22 years old. After his show I caught him loading out and we talked about some tunes and players he was into. What struck me most about our conversation was how genuinely interested he was in all types of music and musicians. I wasn’t prepared for a guy like Victor, so technically gifted and educated on his instrument, to be so non-judgmental of musicians well below his understanding and execution of rhythm, melody and harmony. I figured he’d talk over my head about Coltrane and tell me to study piano.  But this guy loved everything and instead told me a story about one of his favorite musicians – an armless bass player he saw on the Santa Monica Pier playing bass with his feet. He loved all the old Delta Blues and rock guys too. He was beautiful, loving, full of gratitude and vigor for music. He was at peace with everyone and everything.
     Over the years I noticed this same open, nurturing attitude among other seriously accomplished musicians I met around the world. It seemed that often the best of the best had little to no interest in classifying music or grading musicians. They wanted to hear and play with anyone cool and sincere.  Mastering complex music and expanding the boundaries of their instruments had brought these real, true players full circle back to a place where they interested in the sounds a cat made walking on a piano and a child-like wonder took over their minds and filled their souls. They lived in a musical world where the things that mattered were emotion, sound, integrity and expression. It wasn’t about playing the Charlie Parker Omnibook backwards or rearranging a movement of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto into a 5/4 swing.  It was truthfully just about MUSIC for those guys and the need to make art as they felt it.  
      The Sheriffs of Schroedingham are full of the same joyful spirit on their new record “Going to the Sun.” Those looking for something easy to classify, judge, define or file will have a difficult time with this disc. Charles Bukowski wrote in a poem titled “Art”: “As the spirit wanes the form appears.”  Ross Garren and company keep their spirit strong from the beginning to the end of the record.
      ​About Ross: I happen to know this kid. He’s smart, humble and wide open to the world. He’s got what we call “big ears”. He’s a technician that works hard to understand all facets of music and technique on his instrument and who never employs these abilities for the sake of display. It’s mind-boggling how someone so good can have this much restraint as a composer, player and artist. I think it’s safe to say that all harmonica players alive today capable of playing at half of Ross’ level are playing nearly everything they can nearly all the time in nearly 100% of their recordings.  Meanwhile Ross sits backs, breathes and finds the tones, notes and nuances that make a song breathe.      All this isn’t some tired, “less is more” or “music is the space in between the notes” regurgitation you read on a Miles Davis meme on Facebook. This is about the evolution of an artist’s ability to abandon judgement. Their ability to be in the now whether that “now” calls for a flurry of 32nd notes through a Marshall stack and a Rat pedal or it calls for a Sonny Terry-esque, pure major 3rd double stop held over two chord changes.  This is what you’re getting with “Going to the Sun” and its players. Music as nature, as life, as an atmosphere. You’re getting something special: real moments, portraits of our world, our feelings void of musical hang ups and intellectually inspired impotence.    Much of the music on this CD is cinematic and theatrical but there’s also some crazy blues like on “Big Mountain Boogie” which features the bass harp and a very cool amplified diatonic sound. The song sounds like Big Walter meets Howard Levy on a Decatur street in New Orleans and then goes for a walk down the river and runs into Meade Lux Lewis and Fats Waller and they all somehow write a tune together. It might be one of the coolest harp instrumentals ever written. How one morphs cliche’ jazz and blues turnarounds into brilliant, required listening worthy of a music history class while at the same time sounding as new as next year’s iPhone is quite beyond me, but I dig it and am jealous I didn’t do the work needed to write my own version of this masterpiece!    “Boogie Woogie Spaceship Stowaway” is extremely creative and features some great New Orleans style piano somehow seamlessly intertwined with electronica.  “Sheriff of Shredded Ham” sounds like Tom Waits’ percussionist got re-mixed by grandmaster flash then George Porter Jr added some bass at Norton Buffalo’s old studio. Apologies for all the “Meets this guy, has lunch with that guy” type metaphors, but I’m at a loss for another way to describe some of the genre fusion I’m hearing on these tracks. The Gypsy-inspired “Stumptown Black and White” is my favorite feeling of jazz melancholy and I’ve never in my life heard a polyphonia harmonica sound so wonderful, rich and expressive or shine on a lead like this…MORE PLEASE!  Ross’s chromatic soloing is gorgeous, soulful, funny, sad and beautiful the way blues and life are supposed to be. The songs here that fit Jazz and Blues webster definitions are nothing short of homeruns that deserve a wider audience than will most likely ever happen. 

    The Sheriffs of Schroedingham are master musicians, playing with other master musicians, making masterful art through music. Aleister Crowley said: “For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.” (Liber AL I:44) With this disc you are hearing some of Los Angeles’ best session players making music they think is cool, void of pretense, unassuaged of purpose and free from the lust of result. The result of all of this: straight fucking deadly but beautiful vibrational ghost aliens who traveled back in time and love you and want you to be free.”

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