Take a journey, a trip through time, to the Old West. And inject a bit of jazz fusion. You might come up with something like Arthur Vint & His Associates’ Through the Badlands (Vintage Modern Music, 2016).
The band consists of Vint, drums; Ian Stapp, bass; Jon Cowherd, piano; Tony Scherr, guitar; Andrew Halchah, bass clarinet; Rich Perry, tenor sax; Yvonnich Prene, harmonica; and Blanca Cecilia Gonzales, violin.
The title song captures the theme perfectly. One can almost hear Johnny Cash crooning one of his country western songs to this soundtrack. The atmosphere has the ambient presence of southwestern landscapes of Utah, Arizona or Nevada. Then the tempo kicks in, and that scenery of sagebrush, distant mountains and the occasional cow skull is broken up by modern conveniences, like paved roads, motor cars and electric guitars. The guitar, harmonica and violin harmonize well. All other instruments play their roles, too.
“Heyoka” breaks the mold, just a bit. This is a more contemporary sounding piece. Cowherd shifts from acoustic piano to organ. Tenor, violin and harmonica team up for the lead. Vint stays mostly in the background here, but licks his chops throughout, mixing up how he plays the rhythm, tossing rim shots here against tom rolls there and cymbal play elsewhere. Stapp is locked in, too, though again mostly in support of the leads. Prene and Cowherd are the featured soloists.
Everybody gets into the act on “Kindling.” The percussive opening beat suggests something from the Serengeti, but it quickly evolves into an all-in composition that has a touch of Latin jazz in places. Sax and violin carry the melody. The middle passage calls for a series of solos by Gonzales, Perry and Cowherd, each accompanied by a different mood from the rhythm players. After a call and response with the leads, Vint takes a moment to give his a kit a thorough workout.
Through the Badlands is Vint’s vision of the American southwest, combining Native American sounds with country and western motifs and contemporary jazz. Influences for this project include Neil Young, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Marty Robbins. And though the artist shines throughout, the music is written for the entire band, and for each member to have moments in the spotlight.