David Royko Psy.D

david@davidroyko.com

Tony Rice -Unit of Measure

CHICAGO TRIBUNE
February 25, 2001
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2001
RECORDINGS

TONY RICE UNIT
Unit of Measure (Rounder)


Because he has recorded so frequently, both as leader
and as part of several high-octane collectives, it is
surprising to realize that it has been nearly 20 years
since guitar virtuoso Tony Rice made an LP with his
working band. That 1982 album, "Backwaters," featured
a different "Unit" than that which Rice leads in 2001
(and in 1996, when these sessions took place):
mandolin veteran Jimmy Gaudreau, fiddler Rickie
Simpkins and bassist Ronnie Simpkins, plus the other
sole holdover, guitarist and brother Wyatt Rice. The
earlier unit could play bluegrass beautifully, even if
their sympathies were more aligned with string jazz,
which is precisely the reverse of the current
ensemble. This changeup is reflected in the material
-- on "Backwaters," it was Rice's jazzy "Spacegrass"
tunes mixed with jazz standards. This time we find
only one Rice tune (a new rendition of "Manzanita"), a
touch of jazz ("Swing 42"), and a heavy emphasis on
bluegrass standards. The program is disappointing for
its lack of originality, but the music explodes with
drive and lightening-quick ideas. Even if Bill
Monroe's "Jerusalem Ridge" and the ultimate jam
session war-horse, "Sally Goodin" have been done
nearly to death, Rice and company inject them with a
double dose of musical Viagra.
David Royko