An unusual but intriguing new release on the Just Dial Roche label brings to life a feel-good project from the duo of jazz musician Garry Dial and folk singer Terre Roche. For years, they've been fascinated by the national anthems of many countries, and have spent long hours arranging, playing, and singing those tunes. That labor of love has now culminated in their new album, US An'Them.
The name of the album has several meanings, but primarily the artists wanted to impart a feeling of how immigrants in America start out as 'us' and 'them' but eventually everybody comes together. To help make their vision come to life, the duo has enlisted a lot of musical stars from the international music world, including Barbara Mendez for the Brazilian anthem, Patrick Gordon for the Jamaican one, and Susan McKeown for Ireland's.
The album actually contains two discs, one a CD filled with music and the other a 'making of' DVD that also contains some video of ordinary people singing their country's anthems, including a quirky one by a street person with a creative hairdo.
The music CD is filled with the anthems of 16 countries. Some of those might be familiar - such as those of Canada or France - but there are a few surprises too. For example, how many of us have heard the anthems of Guinea, Greenland, or Tibet?
Helping to make this a special musical experience is that most of the anthems have been given distinctive arrangements that make them something a little different from what you might expect. For example, the U.S. anthem is softly and sweetly voiced by Roche, simply accompanied by her own guitar, while the Brazilian tune is performed by Mendez backed by a full Latin jazz sound.
Some of the less familiar anthems are real revelations for a listeners. For example, the previously mentioned Guinea anthem, featuring Sikiki Conde's singing and djembe drum play, was one of my favorites, as was the Austrian anthem. It's given a modern jazz sound via a vocal by Sabina Hank, accompanied by Dial's piano and the sax play of Dick Oatts.
A collection of music that will surprise you by its diversity, while still maintaining a solid central modern jazz theme — and don't forget that it includes a bonus DVD!