Alone/Not Alone: Ryan Cavanaugh, Andrea Nydegger Quartet, & Stoop Quintet


While new release listings and artist/rep/label inquiries have become the foundation of discovering new music, I do still wander the halls of the internet, just looking for, I dunno, for whatever… following trails of breadcrumbs just to see where they lead.  It’s amazing the hidden music one can find with Google and healthy imagination for tags and keywords.

Sometimes I encounter random tracks that never made it onto a proper album.  Demo tracks, a one-off home studio recording, a decent audio recording of a live performance… creative gems that lose none of their shine or value just because they aren’t included in the track listing of a particular recording.

And so, this new (semi-) regular feature Alone/Not Alone is meant to highlight those stand-alone tunes, sitting out there all by their lonesome and with no immediate hope of becoming part of something larger.  These will be songs I like, and this is my way of sharing news of their existence.




Ryan Cavanaugh – “My Favorite Things”

You’ll mostly find Ryan Cavanaugh and his banjo wandering the halls of the Bluegrass genre, but with his 2012 release Ryan Cavanaugh & No Man’s Land, he took a stab at incorporating jazz into the mix, and he did so with some mild success.  Not quite up to the level of Bela Fleck’s fascinating collaboration with the Marcus Roberts Trio, Across the Imaginary Divide, and a bit heavy on the contemporary jazz sound, nonetheless, he took an impressive stab at meshing two musics that don’t always fit so easily together, depending on the tack one takes.

His rendition of the standard “My Favorite Things” features Cavanaugh on banjo and frequent collaborator Tyson Rogers on Rhodes, another artist who crosses back and forth himself between jazz and other genres.  It’s actually part of a compilation album created for the East Nashville Christmas Project, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the homeless in Nashville, TN (learn more HERE).  As a Jazz fan, I’ll always associate this tune more with John Coltrane than Julie Andrews, and the song’s embrace as a jazz standard by other musicians certainly doesn’t do anything to prevent the song from becoming further entrenched in the minds of jazz fans as “one of theirs.”

Cavanaugh and Rogers offer up a charming, understated rendition of the song, the kind of music that the sun itself would listen to while climbing out of bed and poking its head out over the horizon.  Beautiful stuff.

And again, you can visit the organization site, HERE, to purchase that compilation album.  Helping the homeless is always a good cause.


Andrea Nydegger Quartet – “Stoner Hill”

I absolutely adore the Brian Blade Fellowship song “Stoner Hill,” from his excellent 2008 release Season of Changes.  And obviously I’m not alone in that sentiment based on the number of covers I found around the internet.  The Andrea Nydegger Quartet rendition is clearly the standout of those covers.  Whereas most of the covers glue themselves to that beautiful melody and get too wrapped up in mimicking the profound delicateness of the Fellowship’s sublime expression of that melody, Nydegger’s quartet does what you’re supposed to do with a cover… embrace the original’s melody and use it as a launching pad to a personal vision of the song.

To start with, as far as my investigations took me, I didn’t encounter anybody else adding lyrics to the song.  Furthermore, the Nydegger rendition grows relatively lively at times, rising up from the song’s inherent melancholia into a brighter, more expansive sound before settling back down into an introspective state.

Is this song perfect?  No, of course not.  There’s a phrase in the lyrics I regret a bit, and some of the non-verbal vocalizations I could do without, and there’s a shift in tempo that comes off as a bit abrupt, but seriously, that amounts to a whole lot of nitpicking I’m throwing out there, issues that are dwarfed by the quartet’s inspired effort to offer up a different take on the song, one that encapsulates their own personal sound while simultaneously honoring the original.  That’s no small thing and deserves respect.  So, I’m including it in today’s column.

Definitely, my favorite part of this rendition is the way the quartet returns to the melody, shifting from an active state to one of restraint.  It’s kind of thrilling, in its way.

Your song personnel:  Andrea Nydegger (vocals), Simone Bollini (piano), Federico Abraham (bass), and Tobias Schmid (drums).

They don’t appear to have an artist site, but use Soundcloud as their home base.  Here’s a LINK to that Soundcloud page.

In the song’s notes, it mentions that this rendition came out of a workshop the quartet attended, which was led by pianist Hans Feigenwinter, whose album Whim of Fate, coincidentally, was recently my eMusic Pick of the Week, and an album I’ll be reviewing on this site next week.


Stoop Quintet – “Ranch”

I originally became acquainted with composer Jonathan Brigg via the album Ranch, recorded by the Threads Orchestra back in 2012.  It’s a lovely work, moody and uplifting both.  I was thrilled to see that Brigg has assembled Stoop Quintet, and performed some songs from Ranch, including the title-track, with the new ensemble.  I won’t typically feature live recordings, but I’ll make an exception from time to time.  This song is taken from a live May 2013 performance at the National Centre for Early Music, as part of the York Spring Festival of New Music.

Your song personnel:  Jonathan Brigg (piano, compositions), James Mainwaring (sax), Mick Bardon (double bass), Dave Smyth (drums), and Chris Montague (guitar).

Worth noting that the main Stoop Quintet guitarist is Alex Munk.  Montague, actually, is a guitarist in Threads Orchestra, who recorded the Brigg compositions that comprised Ranch.  In correspondence, Jonathan Brigg told me that he thinks this song, entitled “Stoop Quintet,” is more representative of the Stoop Quintet sound.  It does sound noticeably different than the Quintet’s takes on Brigg’s Ranch, and if they do put together an album, it may be more reflective of what will appear on that recording.  But for me personally, I was enthralled with the Threads Orchestra performance of Brigg’s Ranch, and I thoroughly enjoy hearing a new rendition of the music… thus why I’m including it in today’s column.  The song “Soldier On” is another Ranch composition performed live by Stoop Quintet.