Sometimes it's nice to get exactly what you expect after reading the cover, no more or less.
Guitarist Jake Langley's Diggin' In features organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Terry Clarke playing mostly standards in a Wes Montgomery vein. Learning that much by reading the CD cover suggests a contemporary Lee Ritenour-style treatment with enough twists from DeFrancesco's presence for an intelligent recreational listen. The sort of album, in other words, for unwinding after a long day when one isn't ready to completely submit to the mental enema of typical contemporary.
Langley, 30, a Toronto resident selected as Canada's guitarist of the year in the National Jazz Awards, possesses stylings that carries over from studies with Pat Martino and Jim Hall, plus plenty of influence from the Montgomery school. Diggin' In, his third solo album, returns to the lower-key trio playing of his debut Doug's Garage after showcasing a collection of funk/acid/Latin originals with a larger cast on Non Fiction.
Consistency is a good summary for this set, never venturing into uncomfortably exploration or hollow mailed-in territory. Langley keeps the melodies recognizable and his soloing elaborates rather than reinterprets. His plucking runs the range of leisurely to lively, easily absorbed without being completely predictable.
Montgomery's "O.G.D." has a laid back feel, for instance, but Langley spices it up with a rapid series of post bop runs. He also displays a fine command for upbeat blues on "The Garage," the lone original composition on this album. His blues-ballad rendition of Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child" is a smooth change of pace, although it fails to leave any lasting impressions. The same might be said for the album as a wholewhile it's pleasant, it may not linger beyond the moment the listener hits the "off" switch.
DeFrancesco has more acclaimed outings on his resume, but he isn't being called upon to go all out and delivers well for the setting. His tone and a bit of extra kick compared to Langley's treatments, plus offering some extra depth as an accompanist, are what will spur listeners to pick this over similar trio discs when the mood arises. Clarke gets little time on his own, but generally his loose-style playing feels like a living organism propelling things ahead.
Diggin' In doesn't cover any new territory, but does a good job within the one it does occupy as long as listeners are seeking comfort rather than a life-changing experience. It's also comforting knowing Langley is capable of mixing styles album to album, making his past and future efforts worth keeping an eye on if this one satisfies.
Track Listing: 1. Cheesecake; 2. O.G.D.; 3. Blues For Jim San; 4. God Bless The Child; 5. The Garage; 6. Gibraltar; 7.