What's the best way to find out who's the best guitarist in New York? Simple-ask a few apple-based guitarists (or any other instrumentalists, for that matter). I've conducted an informal poll and the answer I've gotten more often than not is the leader here, who I've counted among the world's finest plectrists for almost a decade now. 2002 is shaping up to be nothing less than the "Year of Adam Rogers," with a hefty role taken in fantastic new releases by Scott Colley and Alex Sipiagin and notable appearances on Chris Potter's Traveling Mercies, The Mingus Big band's Tonight at Noon and a fairly well-received debut by Miss Norah Jones. Now, finally, Criss Cross Jazz gives us the long deserved and long overdue debut by quite simply, one of the world's finest guitarists- ever.
Adam's been developing his incredible gifts in a variety of genres throughout his career, and clearly finds fascination and inspiration in all musical places; from fusion to pop to mainstream to ethnic to avant-garde. This record finds him at his essence-swinging, mainstream, contemporary, small group, post-bop guitar nirvana. Guitar lovers-stop right now and buy this one before anything else this year because Adam's put himself right at the head of New York's, and therefore the world's, elite cadre of incredible players pushing the instrument's future forward.
Highlights? The entirety of the outing swings incredibly hard or waxes gorgeously soft, with one standard and eight originals from Adam's mighty pen. Seems as though Mr. Rogers has known all along that composition, not merely prodigious technique on the instrument, is at the core of consequence on the musical map. That said, his skills as a pure player are absolutely mind-boggling, with long lines and phraseology extending the lineage of Martino, Montgomery and Benson, extruding a tone from a Gibson ES-335 so phat and warm it could be coming from a jazz box three times the width. One of the instrument's great compers as well, he relinquishes that role for the most part here to the refined and harmonically astute pianist Eduardo Simon. What a quartet he's assembled- Michael Brecker Band mates Clarence Penn, who stirs and swings the date hard and is full of surprises on the kit, and Scott Colley, a complete player with velvety tone on acoustic bass, round out the band.
Compositionally, it's full of layers. Listen to "Cathedral" for heart rendering piano and crystalline single note work emphasizing Rogers' mastery of linear phraseology, especially his uncanny ability to speed up and slow down the tempo of any given line and return to the phrase at precisely the right nanosecond. On "Book of Sand" he brings authentic classical technique to the fore while "Broad Daylight" and "Bobo" take Martino's and Montgomery's way with a minor blues to the next level, indeed.
I had the pleasure of sitting stage side for Michael Brecker's Boston run last year. After that incredible string of performances, I remember leaving the club thinking Adam had nudged the bar delimiting the role of the small-group guitarist in a pianoless quartet up just a little further than it had been prior to that day. With Art of the Invisible, he's accomplished nothing less than raising the bar for all of mainstream jazz guitardom.
Track Listing: Long Ago and Far Away, Absalom, Bobo, The Aleph, The Invisible, Cathedral, Book of Sand, In Broad Daylight, The Unvanquished
Personnel: Adam Rogers- guitar, Scott Colley-bass, Edward Simon-piano, Clarence Penn-drums
Phil wishes he was a musician (well, he is one, but he wishes he were a good one) but he's not frustrated by it. He's frustrated with a lot of other aspects of the so-called biz. Therefore, he's excited by independently released jazz.