There are great liner notes with this record, composer’s notes: "A big thank you to Greg Gisbert for joining in on the second CD", and for listeners of this album an incredible treat. Gisbert is x Buddy Rich big band, the Woody Herman Orchestra, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Horace Silver, Maynard Ferguson, Bobby Shew, Maria Schneider Orchestra, John Fedchok, and the Smithsonian, Carnegie Hall , and Vanguard Big Bands. He brings his big band chops to this small ensemble and on every lick he plays, your ears perk up to his sophisticated swinging sounds.
So Far From Home immediately grabs your attention with song number one, "Sindar’s Revenge" an upbeat, exciting composition by Pat Shook, it blasts out an introduction that pins you to your seat. Pat Shook plays in harmony with Greg Gisbert. Gisbert gives way to Shook and saxophone takes over with harmonic flow and graceful pulse. Gisbert rejoins and skillfully blows trumpet runs through a wide range of tones, each and every one, pure magic.
The recording is not all about bebop, there are some dark, post bop moments such as in the tune "Insomniac" by Amy Shook. When a bass player can’t sleep she composes a song and of course it is bass heavy. The introduction, a haunting bass melody that is played moderato and with stirring passion. Amy Shook builds tension in her blues march groove to climax with the inclusion of the rhythm section and the harmonious horns that float, swirl, roll and boil to a gentle simmer, giving way to graceful poise.
The hard bop sound of Art Blakey is found in the heavy drumming style of Frank Russo, most notably "Mr. Twister" a dynamite Pat Shook composition that gives Gisbert ample room to play off the melody and blow some wicked sounding licks. Russo is in the pocket with fantastic chops that are dynamic, inspiring and intensely heavy.
Song to song, So Far From Home just gets better with every listen. Did I mention this record swings? Excellent job, must see this group live.