Album Review: Andrew Cashen – Guava Jazz

Not Everyone Can Be Andrew Cashen

By Jay Armstrong

Often from the first moment someone grabs a guitar and feels the holy enlightenment of offering something straight from the mind into the universe which comes with putting a few notes together there is a sense of being capable of returning with full hands and fuller heart from the caverns of creativity until the end of days. Not everyone can be Andrew Cashen. Some go on to feel the mastery flow without limit from one instrument to the next; from one inspiration to the next; the only confines they ever touch are the boundaries of their own interests. Not everyone can be Andrew Cashen. Some lucky few go on to gain recognition where a wailing of their will reaches a wanting expectant crowd to bond something of meaning beyond the personal. Not everyone can be Andrew Cashen. For many of us—and this is not limited only to music—when our number is drawn from that great lottery in the sky to rest our eyes falling gently into the last perfect endless nap, we shall know fulfillment, content in wherever we reach. For we know not everyone can be Andrew Cashen.

Cashen somehow embodies the mysterious, the enigmatic, the quiet, the loud, the soft, the wild; the whole persona one doubts even those closest to him ever grasp more than slightly. I am still wrapping my mind around his last solo record in all its downbeat, introspective, perfection but here we are with Guava Jazz, a thirty-five-minute instrumental; upbeat and understated; so humble one feels an undercurrent prolific yet the passive nature of the whole demands accepting it as anything but. At the very least, let us rejoice for a moment in having one more glimpse into the depths of his potential while scratching our heads how one of the creative forces defining A Giant Dog and Sweet Spirit, who took part in the straight-forwardest-strutting-cool Bad Lovers song, the guy who can be the wildest card as a spectator at shows climbing all over everyone lifting the crowd he stands within one by one into a good time, then in a blink has turned the fire low to be a soft-spoken fly on the wall of subtle magnetism. I doubt even Cashen remembers all of the projects he has been involved in. I doubt he grasps the importance of presence he has for those in this community whether playing music or just existing otherwise. Maybe you have to understand how not everyone can be Andrew Cashen to grasp something so woven in the fabric of all our existence and he is too close to see the forest or however the saying goes. One can only hope that through our love for each step he takes along the way, somewhere in him is a sense of how we rejoice continually in what he has shown us, finding always ourselves excited waiting for whispers coming down the line of something new he has helped shape on the way.

The album cover and titles on Guava Jazz show us the lighthearted and humorous which for obvious reasons were left off on Back In Texas. Doing the best to avoid the pompous sheer look-at-what-I-can-do nature of an album lacking lyrics with one’s name attached to every noise passing through our ears. If only words did justice for the relief felt putting on an instrumental album that does not make me wish the concept of music never existed. Dramatic? I argue not. If only you could glimpse a single day’s worth of nonsense hitting our submissions email you too would be near Justin Bieber circa 2012—if there be any fear of growing old it is that in doing so my response time will slow between the chasm splitting through the noodle and the moment the reflexes kick in calling in out of left field the zen relief which follows smashing that stop button on-screen to pieces the old fashioned way; be it rock or forehead. And even when the music is great, still why come off like a dick? I think of that coffee-time favorite, The Guitars of Sonny James which is all but perfect until you flip it over and read the back cover—all trite and third-person ego nonsense from some corporate jerkoff’s bottomless pit of garbage promotion ideas giving people one more reason not to buy records in those lost death-rattling moments of mid-seventies when the British invasion lost its glitter and Elvis was belly up in some cocaine buffet in Vegas while every major label went insane trying to bring those big bucks back home in the Americanist of ways—don’t know what I’m talking about? Next time you find yourself in a record shop and you mistake out of the peripherals some dude in flannel for being John Denver, flip the album over and soak in all the “spends the quiet of his evenings riding through the mountains with his dog Rex writing songs about his hard cow herding days on the plains” accompanied by a picture of the artiste—truck leaning and all—with a couple of dead Schlitz scattered across his dashboard; living the life and all that—hell at least Mac Davis never tried to be humble.  The point being—and I might just get around to it today—instrumental albums demand an instant target for criticism on the creators back—how dare you expect us to indulge in what you have made! Can’t you just spoon feed us how we are supposed to feel like everyone else ever to make the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine this side of forever?!? For the few people who care about this album— and I hope all twelve of them buy two copies of this thing since there seems to be about two hundred of us left and only a handful can read; even with all we have learned about Cashen through his music over the years, coming out immediately doing his best to avoid the trite shallow insight of selling this thing on narcissism is a positive lead-in. The songs wrap us cohesively in all the hopes of a sunny afternoon ankles deep in a kiddie pool. Setting our expectations low and going from there is a touch of craft easing us into thirty-five minutes soaked in the feel-good life.

Guava Jazz might have Bird and Mingus fans a little put off if they come in hot expecting the heavens to open with Coltrane’s hand reaching out for the aux plug but if you have spent two seconds of time already familiar with Cashen then the flawless weaving through the ethereal forgotten soundtrack of an enjoyable break in the matrix of waking life then this is jazz in the truest sense. Suburban jazz certainly but at least it is better than listening through another asshole riff through scales as though we might forget Art Tatum ever came before. But if we are on the topic—and we really were not—I feel this is the sort of album Chet Baker might have made had his life been a little less Dee Dee Ramonesish.

Anyway, this album is about as jazzy as Morrisey’s personality is tolerable but on the scale of listenable it leans decidedly more towards “highly” than it does “Jethro Tull.” I recommend putting it on repeat while going toes up in some sunshine for a few hours, it was meant for being stuck at home looking for help tapping into the optimistic side of life.

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