While it's not unusual for aficionados to be sleeping on a "new" player on the world's most popular instrument, it's perplexing that this outstanding sophomore release has caused only a relative blip on the jazz radar screen. See, when it comes to guitar in post-bop, modern, contemporary small-group jazz, Adam Rogers represents the state of the art.
You read that right - he's precisely at the pinnacle of currently active jazz guitar players-a spot he swaps out on occasion to only an elite handful. Scary that he's every bit as good when ripping Strat, pumping nylon or caressing steel. Now, bundle guitarist 5.0 with a package including optimal composition skills and you have one formidable jazz artist with a release I'd put at the very top of 2003's heap .
Nothing short of a mind-boggling linear improviser, Rogers is capable of navigating, then renavigating, the harmonic roadmaps of tunes on the fly the way Kasparov revisualizes a chessboard from one move to the next. Combining this with inventive phraseology, precision and judicious use of flat-out speed reanimates his improvisations from phrase to phrase, all of them uncannily linked. For example, check out his dance with tenorist Chris Potter on "Was" or his blistering chorus on "Confluence." The latter recalls "Consciousness" era Pat Martino, not merely in its limitless quality, stemming from uninterrupted strings of advanced lines, but in the extra sound you can hear-the aural vortex of air moved as phrases wrap on each other from low to high.
The illuminating liners describe the complex metric shifts of "Orpheus," while the natural ebb and flow of the melodic contour and form belie technicality. Like many great compositions, analytical complexity stems from imaging sounds as first imagined, not the other way 'round. Edward Simon's piano solo is full of layered, then linear, lush lyricism, demonstrating that he's another player on this date deserving of much wider recognition.
While somber, "Red Leaves" is yet somehow rife with romance. Carefully chosen meter shifts and precision of note placement in the melody are forgotten as the listener's chest rises and falls along with the musicians on this sanctified take. Drummer Clarence Penn gets inside the tune with his brushes and makes it breathe. The solos feature the full round tone and fleet melodicism of Scott Colley , one of the most complete-game acoustic bassists in jazz, and the classically trained Rogers picking a solo analogous to a more pristine John McLaughlin.
That I've only alluded to the contributions of the cast, leaders all, in the allotted space is not to detract from their contribution, but to draw attention to the under-recognized principal here. While Adam Rogers is obviously held in the highest regard by his fellow musicians and those closer to the New York scene, this extraordinary recording can only push his worldwide notoriety requisitely higher.
Personnel: Personnel: Adam Rogers, guitar; Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Edward Simon: piano; Scott Colley: bass; Clarence Penn: drums.