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Music to Pour Over V

September 16, 2011

Photo by Jimmy Katz

I accidentally downloaded a Jimi Hendrix song the other day. I thought the Winterland recording of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” was free, but it set me back 99 cents. Not a bad accident to have, even in an age of austerity. When I managed to pry myself loose from the unruly force field of Hendrix’s playing, I got to thinking about how guitar-infatuated I was back then, in the era of Jimi, Robbie, Eric, Carlos, Pete, et al. And then I got to thinking how crazy with guitarists I’ve been lately – not rock guitarists, though I’ve no doubt there are dozens of young slingers I’ve never heard laying down filthy tracks, but jazz guitarists.

When, I ask you, was the last time so many jazz guitarists in their prime were making so many terrific, stylistically varied albums?

As I write, I’m listening to Hearts Wide Open, the striking new CD by young Israeli guitarist Gilad Hekselman (above), who I regret to say I first became aware of only recently on Ari Hoenig’s Lines of Oppression. As Streisand would say, hello gorgeous. Hearts combines the things I like best about jazz guitarists: bright, open melodies; lean, probing themes (with none of the usual music school belly button-gazing); an underlying sense of urgency even on the slow stuff, and an ability to spark the accompanying players, here including tenor saxophonist Mark Turner (in top form).

I’ve also been listening a lot to Bobby Broom, whose exploratory new collection of Stevie Wonder songs with the Deep Blue Organ Trio, Wonderful!, is a commercial breakthrough to go with his other working trio’s artistic breakthrough, Bobby Broom Plays for Monk. Another Chicagoan, Jeff Parker, plays with his usual adaptable brilliance on Nicole Mitchell’s new album, Awakening. Julian Lage elevates new albums by Gary Burton and Eric Harland. And where would Jeremy Udden’s modern fusion band Plainville be on If the Past Seems So Bright without Brandon Seabrook of Seabrook Power Plant texturizing on guitar and banjo?

I won’t go all catalog on you because I know I’ll leave someone out, but you also owe it to yourself not to overlook Steve Cardenas, terrific on Ben Allison’s albums and on his own West of Middle; Kurt Rosenwinkel, whom I still hadn’t fully cottoned to when Reflections, by his standards trio, knocked me out; and Rez Abbasi, an integral part of Rudresh Mahanthappa’s “Kinsmen” band whose acoustic quartet’s “Natural Selection” deftly claims Joe Henderson’s “Punjab,” among other treats.

I won’t be the last person leaving the room to turn on the light for the prolific Mary Halvorson, whose 2010 album, Saturn Sings, had critics decked out in their best hoozahs. And what about those old upstarts, Marc Ribot and Bill Frisell, who always have something cool going on? And ageless oldtimer Kenny Burrell, who has a new solo live album out. And, oh, what about innovative Bostonian Eric Hofbauer and the Infrared Band? And oh, oh, Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox going acoustic and electric, respectively, on bassist Stephan Crump’s first-rate Reclamation?

Stop me before I break a string.

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