SYOTOS’ “Stairway to Heaven” featured on NPR.com and review by Felix Contreras
This crazy, clever cover medley spans an entire musical universe, as it superimposes one of Duke Ellington’s sacred works (1968’s “Heaven”) over Led Zeppelin’s 1971 rock classic “Stairway To Heaven.” Trombonist Chris Washburne and his mighty See You On The Other Side miniature big band have released an album of inspired Latin jazz instrumental covers; titled Low Ridin’, it touches on ’70s-era rock songs by the likes of Neil Young, The Doors, Lou Reed and Jimi Hendrix.
I’ve always been moved by the emotion of Ellington’s music, so I had to pull the car over and listen closely the first time I heard this unlikely pairing, which brings out the inspired devotion in the melody beneath Jimmy Page’s bombastic chord progressions. The entire album works, but this track is a high-water mark for a great Latin jazz vet.
New fabulous review from Raul da Gama on http://jazzdagama.com/reviews/cds/chris-washburne-the-syotos-band-low-ridin/
This has to be the most hip album since “Low Ridin’” was first invented in the 50’s hydraulics and all. The fact that it has a Latin tinge adds to the mystique. Although this album is completely different from the five other albums made by The Syotos Band over two decades of its existence, it still is, to my mind, the finest volumes of the lot. The most immediate reason for this not-so-unexpected belief is the uncommonly articulate playing of The Syotos Band; the performance, for instance, of “Low Rider” an iconic song by War evinces a glowing dedication to the band and the low ridin’ movement, hydraulics included. The luminosity of texture, songful rapture and emotional clout—no matter how sardonic—mark it out as perhaps the most irresistible tracks on the album.
The recording undoubtedly gets its immediacy and nose for atmosphere from the notional leader, the spontaneously combustive trombonist who does not play so much as burn through the songs he has no doubt arranged. Mr. Washburne might doff his proverbial hat to the “blue” trombone of JJ Johnson, but he is his own man and full of surprises here: freewheeling on Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up”, searing and intense on “Stairway to Heaven” a mash-up between the Led Zeppelin classic and Duke Ellington’s “Heaven” from The Second Sacred Concert (1968) featuring Alice Babs. But so are the other players in The Syotos Band. Trumpeter John Walsh certainly turns on the heat every time he plays as does the saxophonist Ole Mathisen, who also contributes the whimsical composition “Syotomon” that ends the album. Before this towering climax, however, there is plenty of room for swing and swagger.
Two intriguing songs by Neil Young, the first being “Ohio” recalls with giddying eloquence the events that marked the Kent State shootings of 1970 when state troopers were called out to quell an anti-Vietnam War riot on that broke out on the campus; the second is “Sugar Mountain” a wistful recollection of Neil Young’s Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Syotos Band turns these songs into brilliantly elegiac music that might bring a lump to the throat if you grew up in Canada or were associated with the Anti-war protests of the late 60’s, or, quite simply a follower of the music of Crosby, Still, Nash and Young. At any rate, this music has been turned into something with piercing organic power just as the other songs on the album, especially Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” and Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground’s “Walk On The Wild Side”, both of which are purely magical.
Another rewarding aspect of Syotos records are their notes. If you were a baby boomer with an elephant’s memory then you might not need them, but I suspect that Chris Washburne and The Sysotos Band has built up a large following of new listeners, a repository of soul searchers who will not only find these notes informative and exciting, but a leaping point back into the 60’s and 70’s though not in a moldy fig sort of way, but in the manner of a voyage of discovery under the auspices of the spectacular music of this disc. Chris Washburne and The Syotos Band invite you on a journey that is meant to be a rite of passage for anyone interested in learning about what it meant to be hip back then… and now again, with Low Ridin’.
- New Review of Low Ridin’By audiationmagazine, Apr 8 2015 10:36AM
“A creative clash of rhythmic jazz and a fast-pass rock style attitude.”
Featured on page 13 Issue AM012 – READ.
Another stellar review!
CD Review: http://michaelsmusiclog.blogspot.com/…/chris-washburne-syot…
By michael doherty
Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band: “Low Ridin’” (2015) CD Review
Jazz musicians have always done interesting covers of more mainstream material, making us look at pop songs from a different perspective and perhaps focusing on different aspects of the compositions. The new CD from Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band, Low Ridin’, finds the group covering some very familiar and beloved rock tunes from the 1960s and 1970s, including material by The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Lou Reed. It also includes one original tune, written by saxophone player Ole Mathisen. SYOTOS is a Latin jazz band, based in New York, that formed in 1992. SYOTOS, by the way, stands for “See You On The Other Side.” That feels especially apt for this album, as they’re taking us to the other – or at least an other – side of these familiar songs, including “Break On Through (To The Other Side).”
The album opens with a joyful rendition of “Feelin’ Alright,” a song written by Dave Mason and originally recorded by Traffic, but more well known as done by Joe Cocker. This rendition begins with the brass in full control, even as that great rhythm comes in. It features some excellent work on trumpet. The band follows that with War’s “Low Rider.” I’ve always thought this tune was pretty damn cool, but it’s only recently that I’ve heard bands finding different ways of tackling it. Dreaming Bull does a pretty wild cover of this song at their concerts. And this rendition by Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band finds places to groove and swing, and I especially love the keyboard section. Fantastic! A definite highlight of this album.
Perhaps one of the most interesting tracks is the band’s take on Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven.” They explore some darker territory here, and you feel that something could spring out of the song at certain moments and pounce on you. That tone then changes partway through, just as Led Zeppelin’s original went through various sections. What also makes this an unusual track is the mixing in of Duke Ellington’s “Heaven.” This version is quite a bit shorter than the original. They also cover Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”
Also interesting is the band’s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.” The piano part feels to me like it could at any moment go into Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus And Lucy,” something that never popped into mind while listening to a Jimi Hendrix record. And then partway through, this version takes on a very different and surprising feel. What a great vibe!
I’m also quite fond of their version of “Walk On The Wild Side,” though of course I do miss Lou Reed’s voice and lyrics. There is something kind of pretty and sweet about this rendition, and I like the percussion. It’s the percussion of The Doors’ “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” that makes that song totally work for this sort of venture. That rhythm has a built-in Latin jazz feel, and Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band do some interesting things with this tune. I really like the direction they take this one. They also take Neil Young’s “Sugar Mountain” in unexpected directions, and really groove on it.
The album’s final track, “Syotomon,” is the only original composition, written by Ole Mathisen, and it’s a great ride in itself, opening with a driving rhythm before relaxing a bit into a good Latin rhythm. But it continually returns to that driving, somewhat anxious section, and the energy from those brief sections is carried over into the solos. This, for me, is one of the CD’s highlights.
CD Track List
Get Up, Stand Up
Stairway To Heaven/Heaven
Walk On The Wild Side
Break On Through (To The Other Side)
Chris Washburne & The SYOTOS Band includes Chris Washburne on trombone and tuba, John Walsh on trumpet and flugelhorn, Ole Mathisen on saxophone, Yeissonn Villamar on piano and keyboards, Leo Traversa on bass, Vince Cherico on drums and percussion, Oreste Abrantes on percussion, Roberto Quintero on percussion, Isa Washburne on percussion, and August Washburne on electric guitar.
Low Ridin’ is scheduled to be released on April 14, 2015 through Zoho Music.Trombonist Chris Washburne’s website features biography, itinerary, projects, discography, ethnomusicology, reviews, musical examples, etcCHRISWASHBURNE.COM
Chris Washburne and SYOTOS plays Duke Ellington at Sing Sing, Ossining, New York
Chris Washburne and SYOTOS at Subrosa, NYC