When the tune “Leroy’s”, on Larry Unger and Ginny Snowe’s new album, starts up, the unselfconscious murmurs of a deep-voiced blues guitar welcome the listener into a jazz song that slouches around itself so gracefully you’d swear it was a classic from another decade: as fresh as wildflowers, and relaxed as a dusty road in summer. What’s perhaps most unexpected about the tune is that it’s a waltz, one of 13 written by Larry Unger and collected on the album, appropriately titled Waltz Time II.
The first Waltz Time, produced by Unger and Snowe in 1998, set the standard with 18 of Unger’s waltzes--each one highly individual and rarely traditional, elements which have endeared the work to modern folk dancers as well as to fans of good music. As Unger, primarily a guitarist and banjo player, has explained, the 3/4 time of waltz music was originally thought to be subversive and was even banned in some European countries; since then we’ve had Strauss, yes, but we’ve also had waltzes written by great ragtime, jazz, folk, blues, and country musicians who appreciated the possibilities of the format while avoiding its most blatant stereotypes. It is to this latter category that Waltz Time, and now Waltz Time II, belong.
Like the earlier album, Waltz Time II teams Larry Unger up with pianist, bassist and accordion player Ginny Snowe; in addition to their own talents, Unger and Snowe reached out to a panoply of musicians to get the right sound for each tune: hence the listener is treated to the splendid work of fiddlers Eden MacAdam-Somer, Lissa Schneckenburger, and Nat Hewitt, as well as to Billy Novick’s clarinet and saxophone, Annie Raines’ harmonica, Loretta Kelley on Hardanger fiddle, Ilene Stahl on clarinet, Rushad Eggleston on cello, Sam Bartlett on mandolin, Mark Hellenberg on percussion, Corey DiMario on bass, and Mike Peipman on trumpet. As Unger has said, they got collaborative musicians who knew certain styles--Norwegian, klezmer, blues--particularly well, and capitalized on that expertise to make Waltz Time II an album with a rare diversity that yet maintains its cohesion. They also played around a little: for instance, Annie Raines plays blues harmonica not only with the laid-back jazz of “Leroy’s” but also on “Donna’s Birthday”, a tune Unger describes as “one of the more ‘pretty’ ones”, to see what that would do to it. (And?) “It made it more earthy.”
From the autumnal first track, “Two Rivers”, with Eden MacAdam-Somer’s ethereal fiddle guiding us through a musical landscape that seems to mimic the natural, through to the gorgeous, sparklingly unflappable “I’m Takin’ My Time”, Waltz Time II is both thoughtful and witty. The album also includes more recognizably ‘waltzish’ numbers, like the accordion-laced “Yolanda”, that would fit in fine in an outdoor cafe on the left bank of the Seine in late April. Waltz Time II, like the first Waltz Time, includes well-written and edifying liner notes, and features nicely done cover art that puts Unger and Snowe seamlessly into a Renoir painting of people dancing: an unexpected twist on convention that mirrors the music itself.
Aurelia Carter, Wordworth Magazine
"wonderful recording...........expert writing ability and fine musicianship...........
Waltz Time II is a delight from start to finish."