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Jazz guitar fans will not be disappointed by Brightness of Being, an offering of rich harmonics and octave-based solos in a collection of originals, covers of Stevie Wonder and Neil Young, adaptations from Puccini and Garcia de Leon, and a couple of songs immortalized by Ray Charles.
The original "Together finds Bollenback on acoustic guitar and Chris McNulty delivering wordless vocals. This soulful tune has a certain Brazilian feel, without exactly going into bossa nova territory. On Ray Charles' "You Don't Know Me, Bollenback makes you feel the melancholy of the song's words through his fingers. David "Fathead Newman guests, delivering a heartfelt solo that doesn't stray too far from the original melody. On "Unchain My Heart, the band improvises more freely, giving Newman and Bollenback more space.
Neil Young's underrated "Philadelphia, from the soundtrack to the film of the same name, receives a beautiful treatment. Bollenback plays acoustic again, and McNulty delivers the song's lyrics with feeling, fully translating the despair of Tom Hanks' AIDS-stricken character. Bassist James Genus' solo during the intro completely sets the tone.
One of the most challenging moments of making this recording was the guitarist's decision to take a section of Puccini's Tosca and adapt it into a jazz realm. The three-part suite, entitled "Dark Eyes of Floria Tosca, opens with a bass/guitar duet and then moves into a 5/4 band groove that features leads by saxophonist Gary Thomas and Bollenback. The third section, played in 7/4, has more speedy soloing; its descending mode represents, as the liner notes state, Tosca's leap from the tower to her death.
The eclectic selection on Brightness of Being keeps you guessing what's coming next, and the final result is just as satisfying as a five-course meal.
Track Listing: Together; Unchain My Heart; Don't You Worry About a Thing; Breathe; You Don't Know Me; 7 a.m. Special; El Desierto; Dark Eyes of Floria Tosca Part 1-3; Philadelphia; Siberian Passages.
Personnel: Paul Bollenback: guitar; David "Fathead" Newman: tenor saxophone; Tim Garland: soprano
saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Gary Thomas: tenor saxophone; James Genus:
bass; Terri-Lyne Carrington: drums; Ari Hoenig: drums; Chris McNulty: vocals.