Twenty years ago, veteran first call Hollywood film score tuba maestro Jim Self teamed with equally eclectic and prolific arranger Kim Scharnberg to pay post 9/11 homage to our country via My America – a spirited romp through classic tunes associated with various times in U.S. history and specific locations. America is truly in a different place, much more divided politically now, and sometimes the red/blue ideology seems insurmountable.
Enter My America 2: Destinations, the duo’s long awaited, richly imaginative sequel, beautifully and purposefully performed by Self (on tuba and his own invention, the “Fluba,” on “New York State of Mind”) and top L.A. studio legends, many of whom are members of the David Angel Jazz Ensemble (including keyboardist Bill Cunliffe, whose stunning melodica plays lead on the Billy Joel chestnut. Perhaps a listen or two to the wondrous songs, dynamic mashups and fresh, hipster, sometimes rockin’, often lush and frequently swinging arrangements will serve as a reminder of our common goals and heritage and love for timeless American music.
The set features colorful twists on familiar tunes about specific cities and geographic locations - from the boisterous Dixieland spin on “Chicago” and the breezy stroll through “By the Time I Get To Phoenix” to moody meditations on “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” and “Georgia on My Mind” and a feisty jam on Randy Newman’s iconic “I Love L.A.”
The deeper charms of the collection are the aforementioned mashups, where Self and Scharnberg find the musical connections of two well-known songs (“King of the Road” and “Route 66,” for instance) and artfully and playfully fuse them (“King of Route 66”). Other examples are the blend of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s low key “Kansas City” (from Oklahoma!) and Lieber & Stoller’s 50’s rocker of the name, and sensual blend of Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” and Kenny Dorham’s “Blue Bossa,” collectively presented here as “Blue Bayou Bossa.”
No American music tribute would be complete without a whimsical medley of dramatic, soaring John Philip Sousa band tunes (“Washington Post-Modern”) and no Self project is done without a grand original like his funky, old school soul jazz jam “S.L.O. Blues,” topped with a his basset hound Stanley barking at the end. America may sometimes seem in a difficult, pessimistic place these days, but the music of America, especially in such talented and tasteful hands, always delightfully transcends the problems of any era.