The Will Patton Ensemble returns with 6th St. Runaround, the eagerly awaited followup to 2005’s decidedly worldly — and widely acclaimed — collaboration with legendary Gypsy-jazz guitarist Ninine Garcia, String Theory. The quintet’s latest effort retains and refines the smooth Latin influence and Gypsy-jazz sensibilities that bore them to prominence as one of Vermont’s preeminent jazz groups. It also showcases a highly anticipated meeting of mandolin virtuosos and features the next generation of Patton musicianship, daughter Anna Patton on clarinet.
6th St. puts Will Patton’s versatile mandolin chops on display throughout. But it is far from a one-man show. Guitarist Steve Blair, double-bass player Clyde Stats, violinist David Gusakov and drummer Skeeter Camera are joined by a host of very capable guest musicians, including guitarist Dono Schabner and Gabe Jarrett. The latter fills in behind the drums on a number of tracks, including the album’s opening title cut. The tune finds Patton and Gusakov exchanging intertwining solos over a swing rhythm and walking bass line, introducing an album checkered with myriad styles and influences.
The multilayered “Parana” bristles with Latin strumming and picking over a rhythm laid down, in part, by cuica and surdo drums. “Turbilhao” channels a merengue vibe with meandering clarinet and a prominent shaker rhythm.
“Valse 29” uses muted acoustic strumming to stand in for castanets and is centered around a shared violin and mandolin melody with clarinet flourishes. Delicate piano anchors the down-tempo, music-box-like waltz “Tournez à Trois.” Both tracks exude a tangible Eastern European flavor.
There are several more traditional jazz numbers, as well. “I Thought About You” conjures images of a smoky lounge with brush drumming and piano interspersed behind smooth clarinet. The up-tempo “Bounce” does just that, with alternating clarinet, violin and mandolin solos. “Webb City” is quintessential jazz built on semi-acoustic guitar and jazz-swing drumming.
Fellow mandolin master Paul Glasse joins Patton on the Benny Goodman/Charlie Christian tune “Breakfast Feud.” The track does well to demonstrate the consummate skill of not only Patton and Glasse but the entire ensemble as harmonized clarinet and violin lead in and out of mandolin and guitar interludes. The song is one of six covers accompanying five Patton originals.
6th St. Runaround manages to exceed the lofty standards set by Patton’s previous work and should equally impress those who are just now being hipped to his scene.