As I’ve often confessed, when it comes to guitars and guitar players I’m by no means an expert — the truth is, they all sound pretty much alike to me. But listening to “Bubu,” the opening track on Adam Rafferty’s debut recording for Consolidated Artists, I was reminded of Wes Montgomery, even though I don’t know if he even played the same kind of instrument as Rafferty (I am aware that there are many varieties of guitar). In any event, my impression was prompted not so much by the instrument itself as by the bluesy, Wes–like ambiance shaped by Rafferty and his quartet of world–class New York sidemen. “Bubu,” by the way, is one of four original compositions by Rafferty, and each one is supple and swinging. Also on the appetizing menu are Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Triste,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “Birk’s Works,” John Coltrane’s “Central Park West,” the standards “Cherokee” and “I’ll Remember April,” and Strayhorn’s poignant “Lush Life,” which Rafferty plays unaccompanied to end the session on an ethereal note. Music–making, Rafferty writes in the liner notes, is to him a two–fold endeavor — on the one hand, the musician must practice, work and perfect his craft; on the other, he must pay his dues and overcome trials and tests on an inward spiritual journey that in a best–case scenario leads to a mystical transformation in his music that “cannot be unraveled with the rational mind but is recognized immediately by the spirit.” This sound, he avers, “is filled with vibrations of love, truth, sincerity and intelligence. It brings joy to all who hear it and draws souls together.” Laying aside the metaphysical trappings, it’s a reasonably accurate definition of Jazz at its best. Rafferty doesn’t presume to say he has arrived, but the music herein suggests that he has at least taken some meaningful steps toward reaching that goal. Another task faced by most musicians, of course, is choosing one’s sidemen with care. Rafferty deserves an A–plus in that area, as Longo, Cranshaw and Mosca are among the best at what they do, which is to lend unwavering support. Rafferty has awesome chops, a pleasing sound, an ample storehouse of bop–based ideas, and an exceptional ear for an attractive melody. This is an impressive coming–out party with first–rate sound quality, generous running time and inspired blowing by every member of the crew.
Track listing: Bubu; Triste; Allegro in Bb7; Fulvia; Birk’s Works; Central Park West; I’ll Remember April; Samba for You; Cherokee; Lush Life (68:59).
Adam Rafferty, guitar; Mike Longo, piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Ray Mosca, drums.
Contact: Consolidated Artists Productions, 290 Riverside Drive, Suite 11D, New York, NY 10025.