December 16, 2013To: Listings/Critics/Features
From: Jazz Promo Services
Press Contact: Jim Eigo, jim@jazzpromoservices.com
Chris Biesterfeldt “Urban Mandolin”
on Fresh Air TodayTune In for Kevin Whitehead’s
Fresh Air Review

Street Date November 5, 2013
Chris Biesterfeldt-mandolin
Adam Armstrong-bass
Eric Halvorson-drums
At its heart, Urban Mandolin is a straight ahead jazz trio album. It’s just mandolin, bass and drums, all acoustic and comparable to a classic piano trio or guitar trio but with mandolin readily filling the roll of the piano or guitar. Many of the tunes you might expect to find on a classic jazz album and are played deftly by this trio. These include Dizzy Gillespie’s “Bebop”, Charlie Parker’s “Quasimodo” (a tricky melody over changes of “Embraceable You”), Jimmy Smith’s classic blues “Back At The Chicken Shack” as well as his rhythm changes burner “Ready And Able.” There are a couple of funkier tunes as well. Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance” is often played as a funk tune though not with this instrumentation while “Bye-Ya” gets played with a New Orleans funk feel in 7/4.The instrumentation isn’t the only thing about this album that is different. There is an eclectic mix of tunes that are thoughtfully arranged. These include pop tunes “I Can’t Make You Love Me” made famous by Bonnie Raitt as well as the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”, a Brazilian chore tune (Pixinguinha’s “Segura Ele”), Bach’s “G Minor Presto” originally for solo violin but arranged here for a jazz trio, and Wayne Shorter’s “Witch
Hunt” but done with a 6/8 feel.

A few tunes that when originally recorded were thought of as fusion music though you might not think that when you hear them played with this acoustic trio. Chick Corea’s “Armando’s Rhumba” and Pat Metheny’s “Bright Size Life” aren’t that much different than the originals but sound fresh with this instrumentation. “Teen Town” made famous by Weather Report is played like the original but with a train beat which creates an interesting juxtaposition of a country feel with modern harmony and lines. Frank Zappa’s “Rollo Interior” was originally a section of “Alphonzo’s Pancake Breakfast.” Here it’s used as a head chart before a group improvisation over the form. “Some Skunk Funk” by Randy Brecker was originally recorded by the Brecker Brothers. It is quite remarkable to hear all the essential parts are seamlessly covered in this mandolin trio recording.

Chris Biesterfeldt’s new CD Urban Mandolin is amazing. I’ve known Chris as a great guitarist since he first came to New York and had never heard him play Mandolin. (Actually I’ve never heard anybody play Jazz on the mandolin like this before). What he has done here takes not only great skill, taste and creativity, but a lot of guts! Along with the great Eric Halvorson and Adam Armstrong, Chris’s trio creates some fresh and
exciting new sounds. Check them out! — Dave Stryker

Your CD is burning! If you can play that much mandolin, I can’t wait to hear you on guitar. “Some Skunk Funk”, “Teen Town”, “Bebop”, etc….incredible… 
Donald Brown

Artist: Chris Biesterfeldt

Title: Urban Mandolin

Label: Self Produced

UPC Code: 884501946773

Release Date: November 5, 2013
Track listing and composer:

1. Bebop (Dizzy Gillespie)

2. Quasimodo (Charlie Parker)

3. Freedom Jazz Dance (Eddie Harris)

4. Bach G-Minor Presto (Johann Sebastian Bach)

5. I Can’t Make You Love Me (Mike Reid / James Allen II Shamblin)

6. Teen Town (Jaco Pastorius)

7. Bright Size Life (Pat Metheny)

8. Ready and Able (Jimmy Smith)

9. Armando’s Rhumba (Chick Corea)

10. Bye-Ya (Thelonious Monk)

11. Witch Hunt (Wayne Shorter)

12. Segura Ele (Benedicto Lacerda / “Pixinguinha” Alfredo Vianna)

13. God Only Knows (Brian Wilson / Tony Asher)

14. Back at the Chicken Shack (Jimmy Smith)

15. Some Skunk Funk (Randy Brecker)

16. Rollo Interior (Frank Zappa)
Recorded By: Michael Croiter at Yellow Sound Lab in NYC


Musicians: Chris Biesterfeldt-mandolin, Adam Armstrong-bass, Eric Halvorson-drums Produced By: Chris Biesterfeldt

Review from Jazzmandolin.comBy Ted Eschliman

One thing you probably never thought you’d hear is, “I really dug the mandolin on that Jaco Pastorius tune,” but you’re guaranteed to echo that yourself after you listen to New York multi-instrumentalist Chris Biesterfeldt’s freshman mandolin jazz trio CD release “Urban Mandolin.” His train-songish rendition of the classic 70’s Weather Report jazz-fusion fave “Teen Town” is dead-on, laugh out loud accurate, and one of the freshest acoustic string jazz interpretations you’ll hear.

Backed by texturally scant rhythm section Adam Armstrong on upright bass and Eric Halvorson on drums, his trio delights with 16 tracks, mostly straight ahead jazz with a slight detour into some pop (Beach Boys, Bonnie Riatt), some Pixinguina choro, and a track of “switched on” Bach. The diversions make it eclectic, but make no mistake, the bulk of the project is a solid mix of bebop and contemporary jazz. Bird, Monk, Corea, Diz, you couldn’t ask for a better sample of textbook trio jazz repertoire, but in this case, the piano is replaced with the capable fret prowess of Biesterfeldt on his Collings mandolin. His tone propels with rich sustain and articulation precise and confident.

Outside of the Brazilian choro ensemble, it’s not often you hear the mandolin drive the energy in a band, let alone sustain it through the bulk of an hour long recording. Even in its more familiar bluegrass role, the instrument takes a back seat to the collaborative of banjo or guitar. If we had any criticism it would be the indefatigable gait through the entirety of the song manifest. The barn-burning pace in this acoustic joyride is borderline hyperemic, yet resoundingly engaging and satisfying throughout the CD.

Biesterfeldt is best known for his in-demand Broadway orchestra session work on guitar, and even some of his contemporaries like Dave Styker were surprised to discover he played the mandolin, let alone this masterfully.

“Urban Mandolin” is the jazz mandolin surprise of 2013, and we can’t recommend it enough. You want this!

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