I’m not sure if I would describe Ari Joshua’s new single “Country Stroll” as country-jazz or jazz-country. It’s certainly got that country twang to it, and a catchy headline to go with it. However, the piece is definitively a jazz piece. It follows a pretty standard jazz format: play it from the top twice and then transition into improvisation. And the improvisation on this piece is nothing to roll your eyes at; keyboardist John Medeski and drummer Billy Martin join Joshua on the track, adding virtuosic, yet not over-the-top solos.
Joshua describes the song as a “celebration of the beauty of the natural world and the simple joys of life” – though I’m not sure I get that vibe from it, personally. It feels less like a stroll through the countryside and more like a quiet afternoon in a coffee shop. That’s probably just me, though.
What it is a celebration of, however, is understated yet highly competent musicianship. As I mentioned above, the playing is definitely virtuosic yet nothing is over the top; nothing is aggressive or in your face. The entire piece moves along at a pace you can gently bob your head to and enjoy the sonic textures as they wash over your ears.
The composition itself is pretty simple, there’s a bit of circle-of-fifths jazzery going on but it’s basically a modified twelve-bar-blues; a classic form that’s a stalwart of both country and jazz composition (and like, four or five other genres besides.) This isn’t a bebop piece and it doesn’t aspire to be; although I’m sure the players individually are more than capable of pulling off something like that if they really wanted to.
The production is also understated. This isn’t a hyper-polished pop piece; it’s a relatively raw-sounding recording, probably tracked live in a single take. Mix engineer Ari Raskin and mastering engineer Ed Brooks seem to have both understood that intention and not tried to turn this into a super-hot, “radio-ready” sausage of an audio file – and that is appreciated. I hear way too much jazz these days that’s been mixed and mastered like pop music, which is largely inappropriate, especially for lower-key compositions like this one.
To sum it up, “Country Stroll” is a calming listen, appropriate for fans of jazz, country, and instrumental chill-out music. I would recommend this to any easy-listening or contemporary “background jazz”-type playlist.
Listen to "Country Stroll" on Spotify here -
You can check out Ari Joshua’s website here:
A brilliant addition to the repertoire -