Though it contains no original compositions, the debut from Ohio-based jazz guitarist Tim Cummiskey offers more than its share of originality. On this balanced collection of standards and surprising personal selections, Cummiskey skips effortlessly from single line improvisations to chord explorations without tripping over the obstacles he's placed in his own path.
After all, taking on angular compositions like Ornette Coleman's "Turnaround" and John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" are indeed giant steps with a sound as soft and so intrinsically tied to melody as Cummiskey's. But he does so anyway and the result is two of best tracks on Alone Together. While he is almost upstaged by the swinging accompaniment of bassist Chris Berg on "Turnaround," Cummiskey's flawless execution of the theme and diverse improvisations (almost certainly inspired by Pat Metheny's playing of the same song on Joshua Redman's Wish album) make this track memorable all the way around. The same can be said of his fine work on "Giant Steps" where Cummiskey displays intuitive timing, weaving in and out of the syncopated Latin rhythm with quick bop phrasing to smart chordal accents. Cummiskey can be a refreshingly mature player, knowing just how much to actuate the playing of his fellow soloists.
Cummiskey occasionally runs out of ideas for lack of a worthy musical foil. But fortunately this issue is cleared up by the appearance of saxophonist Chad Eby, who offers sympathetic accompaniment to the brisk "You Stepped Out Of A Dream" and the slow blues of "Alone Together." Cummiskey's graceful fretwork is worth hearing on both songs. He sounds right at home with the chord-driven Kenny Burrell/Blue Note sound on the Duke Pearson cooker "Jeanine" and he is equally comfortable on the gently swaying "Estate'."
An Ohio State University educator and statewide performer, Tim Cummisky appears to be happy playing within the halls of academia and the borders of the great Buckeye State. But if his terrific work on Alone Together reaches a wider audience, maybe he'll be coaxed into touring a bit.
Cojazz on the web: www.cojazz.com
Tim Cummiskey on the web: www.tc7string.com
Personnel: Tim Cummiskey, guitar; Chris Berg, bass; Jim Rupp, drums; Chad Eby, saxophone.