After a couple decades of making inspiring contemporary jazz to critical acclaim the esteemed ensemble has decided now is the perfect time to take a look back and showcase some of the quality music that has characterized the group’s recording existence. On the new release, Back InThe Dayz – Airborne Anthology, the group undertakes a musical retracing with a generous helping of fourteen re-mastered/re-edited classic tracks from their prior seven releases on the Tilt Records label in addition to serving up two brand new destined to become classic numbers written by group leader Thomas Borino. Airborne is recognized for continually bringing imagination, positive energy, and deep passion to their jazz compositions.
The artwork gracing the cover of this newest compilation from Airborne, the “Musical Peacemakers” of contemporary jazz, pays tribute to the axiom that a picture is worth a thousand words. Pictured are multiple clocks in various stages of flight into the approaching abyss and also ready to climb the ladder of time. It drives home the sad but true message that “time does indeed fly.” Another sage saying states that time passes quickly when you’re having a good time, and that surely applies when listening to this collection. The musical variations are bountiful, but all the songs are tied together with the common thread of high quality compositions played by tastefully accomplished musicians. Another common thread is the uplifting spirit of the music, aided in great measure by the delight displayed in creating elevating and enriching music. This parallel inspiring spirit is readily apparent on many of the song titles.
“Back In The Dayz” briskly roars out of the gate with an energetic rhythm and a jolt from the horn section and the bass, rhythm and lead guitars. It is one of the new songs and has a bright and tight searing trumpet that recalls the group Chase in their heyday (back in the days when horn bands thrived on the rock music charts). The second song, “Movin Forward,” is also a new composition, and boasts a vigorous feel with more excellent driving guitar and forceful high quality keyboards dovetailing atop a rocking samba/bossa nova cadence. The lead-off placement of these outstanding new songs makes it evident that the group is presently at the height of their musical flight and offers great optimism for the future.
A strong three song collection culled from the group’s 2008 release Winds of Change follows. On the first selection, “Better Days Ahead,” the group eases up on the throttle and gets into a mid-tempo soulful strut groove highlighted by a sparkling piano lead. The intricately structured title cut, “Winds of Change,” is placed in the middle and is a marvelous song that features the cool atmosphere lying at the elemental heart of the best smooth contemporary jazz. It is reminiscent of the wonderful Bob James recordings when he enlisted Alexander Zonjac on flute to help make the tunes levitate when pooled with his keyboards. Talented Airborne guitarist Greg Borino is a constantly sturdy sun-drenched presence and soft delightful background vocals grace both “Winds of Change” and “Brazilian Praise.” This final song of this Winds of Change trilogy wholly captures the essence of Airborne. “Brazilian Praise” contains a superbly crafted breezy and bouncy island melody, beaming guitar, airy background vocals, and lilting flute all combining to create a pleasant musical gust that sweeps you away to a carefree time and place.
The sequencing of songs on Back InThe Dayz – Airborne Anthology has been exceptionally well thought out. The optimistic and soothingly gentle ride through Airborne’s past catalog tenders pure refreshment. On “Smooth Sailing,” Greg Bornio’s guitar has a laid back jazz flavor (with shades of Gábor Szabó) that sails smoothly in tandem with the flute and saxophone play of Thomas Sansone all conducted to a gentle head-bobbing beat with skillful splashes of percussion. Another song from 2007’s Turbulence, “Festival At Sunset,” features a fiesta of Latin musical delight, with percussion, guitar, piano and horns all vying for ear catching prominence. Wedged neatly between those two songs from Turbulence lies the potent “I See” originally contained on Heavy Vibes. It’s a Greg Bornio composition with a driving beat and some dynamic guitar runs amid vivacious keyboards and saxophone riffs.
The song “Island View,” from the Lifetones CD is aptly titled. It is vibrantly cheerful, bouncily passionate, and as inviting as a tropical white sandy beach under enticing sunny skies. Another cut from that same CD is one of the most beautiful songs in Airborne’s repertoire. “Hollow Moon” is somewhat akin to Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti” or “Europa” meeting Kenny G’s “Songbird.” Majestic may be the best adjective to describe the luxurious blending of passionate melodic styles employed to achieve this irresistible vibe. The song to me evokes the sensation of viewing a stunningly striking sunrise from scenic Cape Royale at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. In other words; a sheer beauty that is nearly unattainable to express by mere words.
The combination of the crisp interaction between stinging lead guitar, fresh keyboards, and smooth sax each alternating lead expressions on top of a serenely memorable melody make “A Saturday Afternoon” one of the most brilliant songs from New Horizons. In fact, that Airborne release was one of my very favorite albums to be released in 2010. The pleasurable impression of a walk in the park is significantly present on this sophisticated composition. The other revisit to New Horizons is the jazz fusion tempered with a Latin influence sound that rocks “Gate 7.” The musical tension tightens and relaxes and provides an agreeable composition that twists and turns at every musical corner as the music seems to push forward with a determination and purpose. A more conventional, but nonetheless fruitful, fusionistic tune comes later on the disc in a song entitled “Bounce.”
Fulsome saxophone tones and downy keyboard tints alternatively guide the way on an unflappable performance called “Just The Way I Feel.” This Thomas Sansone creation features a strutting melody with an imperturbable deep groove.
The spoken word finale “Anthology” cleverly interjects many of the song titles contained on the CD while asserting a positive message presented succinctly in less than a minute. It sums up the creative journey traveled to date and looks ahead to a bright productive future for mankind on the basis of music’s nurturing capacity to nourish the heart and soul.
With Back InThe Dayz – Airborne Anthology the past of Airborne is explored and celebrated with the still to be forged future greatly anticipated. The group’s extended harmonious shared recording experience has bred this lofty level of congruous cohesion. If their glorious precedent is any indication; then grand inspirational thought-provoking musical vistas filled with hope lie ahead for us all. Good music is timeless. If you are not already onboard with Airborne; now is the time and Back InThe Dayz – Airborne Anthology is the place to embark.