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Ari Joshua - Country Stroll (Music Factory Records)

11 January 2024

“Country Stroll” sees Ari Joshua doing what he does best. But what he does best is hard to put into words easily, which makes my job as a writer a bit tricky. Then again, as someone with more wit and wisdom than me once said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” meaning that it is a futile persuit. But I’ll try.

Blending threads garnered from everything from jazz to psychedelia, rock to blues, and more besides, “Country Stroll” is a beautiful sonic beast, swaggering through a jazz landscape with confidence, firing off guitar salvos that move from staccato riffs to ornate phrases, from chiming motifs to soothing understatement.

But one guitarist does not a song make. Billy Martin is equally expressive with his drum patterns, and concise and creative fills, often holding down the rhythmic center to allow the other musicians to wander, explore, meander, and invent at will. And behind it all is John Medeski and his electric organ, which ebbs and flows, washes and waves behind, between and beyond the structures that are being laid down, a sort of sonic glue that holds everything together, smooths off the edges and turns what might otherwise feel like more angular moments into poised and polished finishes.

Songs such as “Country Stroll” and indeed artists like those behind this smart and musically scintillating piece remind us that while music is a form of entertainment, it can also be clever, intricate, ornate, unpredictable, and adventurous and still be accessible. And, accessible not just to the already converted, the jazz hounds, the guitar aficionados and the blues brethren, but to a whole raft of discerning music fans found across the musical landscape.

After all, good music is good music. Actually, did I say good? Make that great!