Charlie Christian may or may not have been the first musician to master the electric guitar, but one thing is certain: the first guitarist who plugged in, whoever it was, forever changed the course of modern music. Guitar styles through the decades since passed seem to have multiplied until they outnumber guitarists! But since there always seems to be room for more...
Gibson Guitars' 1999 Jazz Guitarist of the Year, Joyce Cooling here paints a bright and colorful picture with loving strokes. You might be surprised to learn that this is her portrait of an often dark subject.
"'Revolving Door' is a metaphor for a situation we humans often find ourselves in, Cooling explains, "where there is seemingly no beginning and no end to a problem. It can be a frustrating treadmill with the same path ruthlessly cycling under your feet. The specific 'Revolving Door' that I am referring to in this CD is the cycle of mental illness. Everything from the treatments, the so-called solutions, and the unknown causes, to the inaccurate stigmas of mental illness all suffer from this 'Revolving Door' syndrome.
Cooling's guitar rings out clear and smooth and bright through this Door, with the sounds of such influential jazz/pop guitarists as Larry Carlton and George Benson often shining through. Her accompaniment, especially the cool and fluid electric keyboard shadings from co-composer, arranger and producer Jay Wagner, certainly flatters her playing. Several examples of their keyboard and guitar interplay suggest instrumental out-takes from jazz-rock fusion albums by Steely Dan. The background horn chart in the opening "Mildred's Attraction might come from Aja, for example, and this title track, like the title track to Pretzel Logic, churns into an erudite modern-day blues.
"Come And Get It soars into jazz atmosphere, as Cooling flies around her harmonic range and pauses to aggressively, repeatedly hammer key phrases. But Revolving Door also offers a little more than standard smooth jazz fare. "Mildred's Attraction, for example, concludes in a surprising jam of Brazilian and jungle percussion. Her title track nuzzles against the blues; it's still soft and supple - nowhere near "down and dirty - but undeniably blue in feeling and tone. Benson's blue light burns through "I Will Always Love You (Ode To The Audience), a grateful solo blues propelled by scatted vocals and companion guitar. "Little Sister luxuriates in acoustic funk that seems to float softly down, as if played from the comfort of her own back porch. As her guitar gently weeps (not so much in the notes she plays but in the way that she plays them), "Sister feels like one of her most "for real songs on this set.
"The CD isn't a compendium of tunes about mental illness, concludes Cooling. "The title is a testament to the syndrome as it impacts both life and the mental health crisis in our world today.
"For me, this hits home. Having grown up with a brother with schizophrenia, I am a part of one of those millions of families caught in the 'Revolving Door.' A portion of our proceeds from the sale of 'Revolving Door' will go directly to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to help support people living with mental illness.
Best of Esteban
Dreambox Records for Esteban Music
Born near Pittsburgh, PA, Stephen Paul apprenticed in Spain for four years under Andres Segovia, who bequeathed upon this protégé the professional name Esteban. Esteban's first new release since 2003 is not a convenient repackaging of previously recorded music; he has recorded new versions of favorites from his repertoire, from Spanish dances to familiar ABBA and Beatles songs, instead.
On its surface, some of this might sound too comfortable and genteel. There's no denying the quality of Esteban's musicianship, but "Here Comes The Sun tries so hard to sound cheerful and bright that it's almost depressing, and he turns "Fernando into a ballad so soft that it sounds more like Muzak than music.
Esteban's march through Del Shannon's prototypical rocker "Runaway energetically kicks out the jams, at least, and other tracks prove even more rewarding. His strumming and chording hands seem complete blurs in the showstopper "Fuego Malagueña, an update that burns through one of his most famous originals ("Malagueña ), at its climax pure carnival magic. "Alicante rips up the joint in a more traditional Latin jazz style, including a vibrant percussion and piano break. "Mediterana captures a very different mood. His Middle Eastern guitar sound intertwines with flute, jointly intersecting Indian and Arabic music, each note gyrating against an aggressive rhythm that pounds it right back into the incandescent melody.
"Only Love, Esteban's lone solo piece, is full of empty space and a longing for beauty so profound that it hurts.