May  2002

Homeland - A Tribute to the Spirit of America
Jazziz JZD0102
Released: 2002

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

[Reviewed on CD]That the events of September 11th have profoundly reshaped our world is now without question. That some have determined to use those events to attempt to achieve a safer, better place to raise children is equally self-evident. Still others have tried to ease the suffering of the families directly affected by the tragedies of 9/11. Among the latter is Michael Fagien, editor of Jazziz magazine.

In response to the visual horrors witnessed on that fateful day, Fagien turned to the one medium that had always brought him pleasure, peace, and hope: music. During the period of readjustment to our changed, new world, the idea came to him that the families of the victims might also benefit -- financially, as well as musically -- from some of the same music that was helping him come to grips with those terrible events. Thus was born Homeland - A Tribute to the Spirit of America.

Enlisting the aid of labels as diverse as Blue Note, Verve, ECM, Atlantic, LSR, GM Recordings, NYC, Silverwave, Sonic Thrust, Rounder, Windham Hill, Unitone, and Warner Brothers, Fagien created Homeland by choosing music by many different artists, including Pat Metheny, Patrick Leonard, Michael Hedges, The Wayfaring Strangers, Mike Mainieri, Marc Johnson, Fred Simon, Jay Graydon, Trio Globo, Jeff Richman & Wayne Johnson, Dave Douglas, Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny, Richard Leo Johnson, Cyrus Chestnut, Leni Stern, and David Darling. Describing his ambition, he said:

"Since I decided to select music that seemed to capture the mood of America, you’ll hear sad, yet beautiful, expressions form the heartland that provide a soundscape attesting to America’s strength under any conditions. Like my feelings about jazz in general, I didn’t feel this CD necessarily needed to swing. Instead, it is intended to evoke memories while it soothes."

So, how did I react as I listened to Homeland? Well, the musical styles encoded herein are not to my tastes, new age-y as it is. Having said that, the music does allow you to transcend the listening-for-pleasure experience and release your mind to drift over whatever thoughts seem relevant at the moment. You’ll find no patriotic music (with the exception of Jay Graydon’s "Star Spangled Banner"), and other than the old spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" (as performed by Cyrus Chestnut), no overtly recognizable Americana tunes either. What you do get, though, is well-played music that flows smoothly over your senses, washing away your cares, and reminding you of times past. And, perhaps, that is all one could ask of this musical interlude.

The sonic quality varies, as one would expect with music that comes from so many different sources, by so many different engineers and artists. And yet, despite all that, the sound ranges from good to very, very good.

So, what to make of Homeland? It’s more than a sampler, yet less than a soundtrack -- more like a conscious attempt at a commentary on American life. If your musical tastes run toward the style of music included here, this disc will bring you a great deal of enjoyment. But even if you, like me, are not enamored of this type of music, buy this disc anyway. Michael Fagien has stated that the proceeds from the sale of Homeland will go to the American Red Cross to assist the families of the September 11th tragedies, to let them begin to regain something of their past lives. That act alone makes giving a recommendation to Homeland a no-brainer.