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Eastman saxophone alumni lead Cowboys & Frenchmen on "Our Highway" 

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“Our Highway,” the new album by Cowboys & Frenchmen, begins with a haunting saxophone melody. Seconds later, the group launches into a wonderful cacophony of free jazz. It’s a fitting start to an album exploring the balance between order and chaos when a band tours. The hallmark sound of this musical travelogue involves two saxophones in unison, harmony, or slight dissonance.

The simpatico achieved is the result of the group’s two leaders, saxophonists Owen Broder and Ethan Helm, who have played together since attending the Eastman School of Music. After graduating in 2012, they moved to New York where they formed the group, which includes the equally strong Addison Frei on piano, bassist Ethan O’Reilly, and Matt Honor on drums. Grammy winner Ryan Truesdell produced the CD, released by Outside In Music.


All of the tunes on “Our Highway,” recorded live at New York’s SubCulture, were written by Helm. “Alice in Promisedland” continues the duality theme with bluesy sax melodies layered over Frei’s gorgeous arpeggios. The pianist plays an especially strong solo on “American Whispers: Streams – An Old Church.” The album ends with Helm’s elegiac “The Farmer’s Region.”


An accompanying 45-minute video is full of split-screen montages, capturing the hectic pace of travel and the beauty of America. To experience the video album, check the band’s website for a list of live-streaming events.
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