This self-titled album is the first CD by the Cigar Box Serenaders, whose second, Spasm, has been reviewed elsewhere in The Syncopated Times. All instruments played here (string) were hand made by leader Brett Gardner from such objects as empty cigar boxes, a tomato can, and a dresser drawer. His created percussion is assorted pots, pans, lids, and upended plastic trash cans. Amazingly enough, the music is very good, which is indicative of the very high quality musicianship of the players involved.
Brett Gardner plays lead on all tunes, utilizing cigar box guitar, drone-o-phone, and tenor canjo. Cassidy Holden performs accompaniment on tenor canjo and cigar box ukelele along with Matt Booth on dresser drawer bass. Gerald T. Watkins clatters nicely on the various percussion objects. All are very capable soloists as well as creating a cohesive ensemble.
The repertory, although quite varied, should appeal to most traditional jazz enthusiasts, even their version of Thelonious Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser.” The opener, an original by Gardner titled “Samurai Shuffle,” is reminiscent of the many swing tunes done by Django Reinhardt with the Hot Club Of France, while “Stardust” is a quartet version of the 1932 Louis Armstrong record. “Hindustan” and “Tico-Tico No Fuba” have a pronounced Latin feel. The Gardner original “Lavender Grey” and “I’ll Be Seeing You” are rendered as pleasant rhythm ballads, although the former has more of a pronounced jazz feeling.
Brett Gardner performs solo drone-o-phone on “Improvisation In C Minor” and tenor canjo on the J.S. Bach “Prelude From Cello Suite No. 1,” both very impressively.
The unique instrumental makeup of this CD might make the reader believe that this is a novelty group playing silly music. Far from it. This is good music played by good musicians. In fact, if one were not aware of the homemade instrumentation, he/she might not detect the difference from standard instruments.
With the exception of Brett Gardner, the personnel here is completely different from the Spasm CD. On that one he stays almost exclusively on tenor canjo, where here it’s cigar box guitar.
Available on CD from Louisiana Music Factory, 421 Frenchmen St.,New Orleans, LA 70116 for $10.99 or as a download from Bandcamp for $7.