Jayme Stone's Room of Wonders as reviewed in The Phantom TollboothAfrica to Appalachia man travels the world of dance with his banjo




Label:  Independent (www.jaymestone.com)

Time: 10 Tracks / 37 minutes

Stone’s last release, the gorgeous Africa to Appalachia, was one of the highlights of the year for me and so I have been keenly awaiting this follow-up. But Stone is not a man to stay in one place for long and this CD is a separate release with its own inspiration and story.

At one time in its genesis, Stone had three possible albums in his head, but once he found that dance was the thread that hung them together, he started work on this single instrumental collection.

As a banjo player, there was always going to be some bluegrass here (“Ways of the World”) but Stone has taken his inspiration from all around the world. “Krasavaska Ruchenitsa” and “Planinsko Horo” are both lively pieces from Bulgaria, the former, in 7/8 time, is considered to be the national folk dance. “Andrea Berget” is a more delicate track from Norway that sounds more Irish than Scandinavian, while “Reels” are genuine Irish pieces.

The short track that sets these off is actually the inspiration for the whole album. “Allemande from the French Suite no. 6” is a typical Bach piece that borrowed heavily from European dance and made Stone think that he could do the same thing with a wider vision.

While most tracks are traditional, Stone composed a couple including the darker “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.” It was inspired by a Tunisian folk dance, but its brass makes it sound jazzier, like a slow part of Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain. With a similar feel, but given a samba edge “Vinicus” is set in “an imaginary Brazil”.

The whole album hangs well together, Stone’s banjo and Casey Driessen’s percussive fiddle featuring most prominently and keeping the pace hot throughout. Stone got the band exploring countless variations on these tunes, but also banned solos. The result is a tightly composed collection, where the energy has been channelled into intricate arrangements of largely time-tested tunes.

Derek Walker