On January 11, this year, Ari Joshua, the award-winning guitarist, composer, and genre-bending genius, took us on a delightful musical journey with his latest instrumental track, “Country Stroll.” This piece is more than just a stroll through the countryside meadows; it’s a blend of musical influences, seamlessly combining Americana twang with jazzy improvisation and playful bursts of blues. Joshua sets the tone with a soft tune surrounded by modest snare rolls, evoking an ideal country scene. But Joshua, ever the restless artist, does not let the serenity last long. The essential country blues create dips and dives, surprise with masterfully crafted chord progressions and unexpected melodic detours. It’s like going for a nice afternoon walk and randomly discovering a hidden jazz club, only to emerge into a busy dance hall with a few bars. We spoke with Ari Joshua from the other side of the world to discover more. Please enjoy the conversation below.
SONGWEB: Joshua, you clarify “Country Stroll” as a blend of twang, jazz, and playful spirit. How did you manage to bring these seeming elements into a unified piece?
ARI JOSHUA: I listen to a lot of great music. There is so much great music to be inspired by. The playful spirit comes with a light touch and some big strings to fight back on the guitar. Chris Bittner, the engineer, had me play the melody again after everyone left, as well as some of the chords and he mic’d JUST the Languedoc guitar I had acoustic. He captured the room sound and it gave it a real vibe. The song is also an organ trio, which makes it pretty special. I think this style has a lot of simple harmonies mixed with an underlying blues form. I pulled a bit from Thelonius Monk and a bit from the master, Bill Frisell.
SONGWEB: The melody is said to create an “imaginative sonic landscape.” Can you explain the vision you were trying to evoke with the music?
ARI JOSHUA: It just comes from listening to a lot of records. Growing up, we would play the music we liked from the records we liked. When making a record, I try to do the same but with my music.
SONGWEB: The surprising passages and clever chordal movements suggest a sense of adventurousness. What inspired you to push the limits of the “elemental country blues” form?
ARI JOSHUA: HAHA, I like that you caught that; that’s a great question. I assume you are a musician with questions like that. I try to always push limits. I try to push limits while honoring the limits that the masters of the past pushed to create the music they created. There are a few signature twists and turns on this melody, for sure, and there is a blues under it all to keep it grounded.
SONGWEB: John Medeski’s organ improvisation is described as “silky” and “masterful.” Can you share your initial reaction to his contribution and how it shaped the overall feel of Country Stroll?
ARI JOSHUA: John Medeski is a genius, and everything he does is brilliant. He is so good, I would play with him, tour with him, and record more with him. My reaction is that he has the sound that is in my head often when I write or play. Even as I heard him play as a teenager, I was like, That’s my guy. A lot is the same with Billy. One note is that John was given some outlines of the music in advance and said he could play all of it. It was a pleasure to play with him. It was super fun. Billy was also full of ideas on how to approach things. The contributions were atomic.
SONGWEB: Billy Martin’s drum solo is praised for its “lyricism” and “ingenious rhythmic contortions.” What did you hope to achieve with this solo section, and how does it fit into the emotional arc of the song?
ARI JOSHUA: This song is not something I think you would typically hear from these cats. Having said that, I think a lot of fans of their music will like to hear it. I think Billy, John, and I are capable of putting our voices into almost anything. I think each person’s voice comes through in this recording and this song, and I think it’s an amazing track. It’s a jazz song that has some character to it. Everything happens for a reason, yeah? I think the form, the solos, and the whole thing took us maybe 5 minutes to record, and this led to the next song, which was completely free and had no form at all. I love it all!
Overall, “Country Stroll” is a display of Joshua’s musical abilities; it also shows his desire to push limits. He takes a familiar form, country blues, and fills it with surprising ingredients, resulting in something new and completely unusual. It’s an infectious celebration of the natural world, the basic pleasures of life, and the endless avenues of musical inquiry. Joshua’s passion for the song is evident: “I’m incredibly excited to share ‘Country Stroll’ with the world,” he says. And rightly so. The song is a standout from his nine-album repertoire, revealing his depth and ability as an artist.
You can follow Ari Joshua here for more information.