These recordings share the same basic
instrumentation: saxophone, guitar, bass and drums. The music world has changed
immeasurably since Sonny Rollins featured Jim Hall on the benchmark sax/guitar album, The
Bridge, in 1962. Who then could have envisioned the guitar revolution that lay ahead?
The innovations of Hendrix--and subsequent technological advances--have forever changed
how we hear the instrument. All three guitarists on these sessionsPat Metheny, John
Abercrombie and Pete McCannhave found very individual voices through intrepid
experimentation with the ever-expanding electronic possibilities of their axes. They also
realize that the "unplugged" version still holds great expressive possibilities
David Liebman takes full advantage of Methenys guitar arsenal on
the intriguing Water, the first album in a series, which will also include tributes
to the elements of earth, fire and air. Even though Liebman and Metheny have known one
another for nearly twenty years, this is their first recorded collaboration. Bassist Cecil
McBee and drummer Billy Hart make significant contributions to the project as well, but it
is the interaction between the leader and guitarist that makes this suite so moving.
According to the composer, most of the pieces on this CD are variations
on the opening theme, "Water: Giver of Life." The contemplative mood of this
sax/acoustic guitar feature is explored further in "Reflecting Pool", a Zen-like
ballad for wood flute and 48-string Pikasso guitar. At the other end of the sonic spectrum
is the screaming guitar-synth assault of "Ebb and Flow," prompting
Liebmans soprano to retaliate with raging banshee wails. Critics who complain that
Pats guitar sound is a bit too lyrical ought to hear this one!
Speaking of banshee wails, on Parable, Pete McCann delivers some
of the wildest guitar licks this side of Steve Vai. While this North Texas State alum is
clearly still in the process of assimilating a number of influences, he has put together a
very potent first effort, aided by several other 20-something players willing to buck the
current recycled-bop establishment. Not that these guys cant swinga quick
listen to "Grimlock" or "Hoedown" will reveal joyful, sing-song
melodies in the tradition of Ornette Coleman, driven by amazing beatmeister Matt Wilson.
Peter Epstein and Bruce Huron alternate saxophone duties; each is able to anticipate the
fuzz box curveballs and Whammy pedal sliders McCann hurls at them periodically. For
example, both reedmen contribute to the escalating sound-and-fury of "Hoevenen,"
and Huron jumps right into the metal melee of "Victim Sweepstakes" with a
fierce, take-no-prisoners attitude.
McCann, who enthralled concert-goers at a WWUH-sponsored performance by
the New York Nonet last December, has a mellow side, too. Best exemplified here on
"Patricia," a lovely bossa nova written for his wife, and "Mind
Bender," a dedication to fellow guitarist Ben Monder, these acoustic tracks complete
this portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-man, and suggest that McCann has a bright future as
both performer and composer.
Voice in the Night finds tenor saxist Charles Lloyd revisiting
the title piece, which he originally penned in 1965 for a record date that included Gabor
Szabo, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. Here, hes in the good company of Dave Holland,
Billy Higgins and the aforementioned Abercrombie. Lloyd also reprises his best-known
composition, "Forest Flower," another of 60s vintage, and "Requiem,"
from the mid-80s. The decision to re-record the latter piece was sadly prophetic, as it
turns out, in the wake of Michel Petruccianis recent untimely passing; Lloyd had
first brought international attention to the French keyboard virtuoso in 1982.
Lloyds substitution of a pianist with a guitar player for the
first time in ages seems to have reinjected a bit of fire into the saxophonists
playing; having an acknowledged rhythm wizard like Billy Higgins aboard doesnt hurt,
either. The drum/sax duel which opens "Homage" contains Lloyds most
zealous playing of the session; Abercrombie checks in with an enticing, echo-laden solo,
followed by a solid statement from Higgins. The wonderful interplay between Holland and
Abercrombie during "Pocket Full of Blues"recalls their wonderful association
with the Gateway Trio.
Since his 1980s comeback, Lloyd has been focusing on recording original
compositions, but here hes chosen to put his own spin on the Strayhorn classic
"A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing." More surprising still is the quartets
lilting version of "God Give Me Strength," the first collaboration by the
unlikely songwriting team of Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach. The band conveys the depth
of passion contained within this attractive melody, spurred on by Mr. Higgins
buoyant rhythms. (By the way, guitarist Bill Frisell has just recorded an entire album of
Charles Lloyds quartet is currently on tour to promote Voice
in the Night. They will perform at The Knitting Factory in New York City on June 9, as
part of this years Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival.
Copyright©WWUH: May/June Program Guide, 1999