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There’s a challenge in all-instrumental albums. You better have the chops or the tunes or the arrangements. If you don’t have at least two of those, and preferably all three, you can lose an audience real quick. Banjoist Kyle Tuttle debuts with an all-instrumental, predominantly original album. Tuttle’s background is strong: Berklee College of Music; studies with Keith, Trischka, and Fleck; sideman with, among many, Peter Rowan and Rebecca Frazier. So you know he has the chops. He can play traditional right there with the frontrunners. “Bobcat On The Banjo,” “Through The Fence,” and “The Road To Malvern,” all of them reflect that. He might shoot off in some fantastic directions on any of those, run off some melodic runs up and back, but don’t doubt his Scruggs or his fiddle-tune style, as reflected in his solo recording of the traditional “Redwing.”

Look out on the rest of the album, as well. It’s all in there. Jazz. Rock. Funk. Blues. Even a touch of world music. What’s quite impressive is that all those styles seem to jump in and out on any tune. This is never more true than on “Green Room.” You can almost call it a suite. There’s a jazz/funk section. Then a somewhat straight bluegrass section. Then back again. And it’s all handled so seamlessly. Also impressive is the percussion, bass and banjo exploration of “Budhvaar Raga.” The rhythmic twists and turns are amazing. Also of note is the bluesy jazz of “Birdie Strut” and the slow, distorted, rhythmically-creative “Song For JL.”

Tuttle definitely has the arrangements. What about tunefulness? More of a challenge. I’d call them sufficient. I’m not sure you’ll be humming any of them, but they will, with their twists and turns and surprises, hold your attention all the way through. A near-perfect debut. (

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