Swedish-born, Boston-based jazz guitarist Bjorn Wennas' debut CD, Early Summer Sketch
starts out with a sizzle. "Off" is an up-tempo jaunt with a memorable melody, stinging guitar chops, and crisp sax/guitar unison. Wennas' solo has a tang to it as it dances with his band's bubbling rhythm. The brooding gem "Early Summer Sketch" slows things down and features some of the disc's best sax/guitar interplay.
The CD is touted as "contemporary jazz with a rock and pop sensibility," and with "Mind Games", the sound goes perhaps too far in that "pop" direction with Carmen Marisco's wordless vocals that over-sweeten the sound, in spite of the sharp sting of Wennas' guitar solo. "For Bjorn" bops along with Kristof Bacso's sax solo doing a contained burn in front of jouncing rhythm, leading into more inventive guitar licks by Wennas.
The closer, "Love Song," is a tune written by Wennas, featuring lyrics from an e.e. cummings poem sung by Carmen Marisco. Marisco's voice is pleasant – and the assumption here is the projected appeal is more pop than jazz – but it doesn't add much to the mix. The set really needed not another ballad here, but something up-tempo to close things out with some pop.
A fine debut; a nicely interactive band with a definite future.
Personnel: Bjorn Wennas, guitar; Carmen Marisco, vocals (tracks 3 & 5) Ziv Ravitz, drums; Jeff Denson, bass;
Kristof Basco, saxes