The Deep Forbidden Lake – Jazz Mandolin Project
Lenapee Records 4808062
Cover songs are cool because they suggest options you might not have considered.
Who knew, for instance, that the cheesetacular "My Favorite Things" could double as an exploratory jazz tune (I guess anything is possible in J. Coltrane's holy hands)? And who knew that Otis Redding wrote "Respect" (Aretha made it hers two years after Otis cut it)?
Who knew that "Hey Joe" was really a lonely dirge for piano trio (see MMW's Tonic)? And who knew that a forgettable tune off a lesser-known Dylan album would forever cement Jimi’s spot in the pantheon of rock (hint: you have heard this song at every concert you’ve ever been to by every band you’ve ever seen)?
Furthermore, who knew it was possible to ruin "Big Yellow Taxi"?
(Everyone, when Counting Crows released their take on it in 2003. But who wants to dwell? I don't want to dwell.)
I want to talk about Jamie Masefield and his gorgeous new album, The Deep Forbidden Lake. Lake, out now on Lenapee Records, is a collection of covers performed by Masefield on mandolin, Greg Cohen (John Zorn, Ornette Coleman) on upright bass, and Gil Goldstein (Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius) on piano and accordion.
And they all suggest the option that Masefield and co. are masterful interpreters of song. On this, the sixth album released under Masefield's Jazz Mandolin Project moniker (a misleading tag, as Masefield is the only permanent member of the group), tunes by artists as stylistically diverse as Tom Waits, Neil Young, Billy Strayhorn and Radiohead are tackled with taste and tenderness.
The opening "Winterlong," by Young, is a wistful walk through fresh snow, marked by short, sincere leads from each player. "Hallelujah," by Leonard Cohen, is all space; a note from everyone and every note in its place. And "Tears," by Django Reinhardt, sounds eerily authentic; when Cohen does his best Stephane Grappelli and Goldstein slinks up and down the keyboard, you could swear you were listening to the Quintette du Hot Club de France.
But you're not. Instead, you're curled up near the fireplace in a cabin in Vermont, listening to Uncle Jamie play some of his favorite songs.