Guitarist and composer Paul Bollenback has been a veritable whirlwind of activity over the past fifteen years. Aa a vital part of Joey DeFrancesco's combo, he played on thirteen albums since 1990, as well as a total of 48 sessions during that same time period with artists like Joe Locke, Gary Thomas and Ron Holloway. This is his sixth date as a leader since 1995.
The dozen selections display a wide variety of styles, including straight-ahead bebop with horns, more intimate guitar-driven compositions, material derived from Puccini's Tosca, songs from Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, and classical guitarist Ernesto Garcia de Leon, and a tribute to Ray Charles. On the opening tracks, Bollenback provides the necessary guitar fills as he comps for the horns in this piano-less ensemble and also finds the time to provide a nifty solo on "Together." Gary Thomas and Tim Garland provide the saxophone heat on the above, while valued Ray Charles alumni David "Fathead" Newman provides a homage on "Unchain My Heart" and "You Don't Know Me." Newman's patented warmth and soul are easy to spot on these tunes.
Bollenback's quicksilver fingering displays a lot of Wes Montgomery-like octave playing, as exemplified on Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing," which is presented in an infectuous style. On the other hand, "You Don't Know Me" is given a lingering and melodic treatment by Bollenback, as well as Newman. "7 a.m. Special" is given a blues reading, showcasing the guitarist's expertise in that field (per the DeFrancesco recordings). The work of classicist de Leon on "El Desierio" provides yet another opportunity for the leader to add diversity, just like his ambitious adaptation of Puccini's "Dark Eyes of Floria Tosca."
Another well-used advantage of this album is vocalist Chris McNulty, whose effective vocalese provides atmospheric shading on four selections. She sings the lyrics of Neil Young's "Philadelphia," written for the Tom Hanks movie of the '90s.
Personnel: Paul Bollenback: guitars; David "Fathead" Newman: tenor saxophone; Gary Thomas: tenor
saxophone; Tim Garland: tenor and soprano saxophone, bass clarinet; Chris McNulty: voice;
James Genus: bass; Terri-Lynn Carrington: drums; Art Honig: drums.