John Moriarty: Echoes (2013)
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Adopting a traditional, straight-ahead approach to the quartet, Irish guitarist John Moriarty gathered three established New York-based musicians for one day in the Bunker Studios, Brooklyn. The title suggests homage, and there is a hint of classic Blue Note in the leader's clean linesevocative of guitarist Jim Halland in half of the songs that delve into jazz's past for inspiration. But that's only half the story, for Moriarty's original compositions have a slightly more modern feel. However, the success of the album lies in the seamless transition from past to present and in the tremendous playing, which strikes a lovely balance between melodicism and flowing improvisation.
Moriarty takes an uncomplicated approach to Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays." Drummer Adam Pache's ride cymbal, bassist Matt Clohesy's walking bass and pianist Randy Ingram's uncluttered chords lend solid support that buoys the leader's beautifully articulated phrases. Moriarty's solo flows, but with an economy of notes, and throughout the recording the quartet breathes a relaxed air that comes from enjoying plenty of space. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter's "Fall" lends itself to this less-is-more approach; Moriarty's playing is as light as angel's hair, with Ingram's touch on electric piano suitably understated. The pianist's solo is all right hand, with Moriarty's whammy caresses substituting left-hand piano chords in a subtle use of dynamics.
Moriarty's "Echoes of the Future" has greater zip, with the rhythm section on double time duties. Guitar, piano and drums all enjoy solo time on this Kurt Rosenwinkel-esque bop number. Another original, the ballad "Ninety Six," is a beautifully intimate trio dialog, with piano sitting out. Clohesy and Moriarty support each other's elegant exchanges, while Pache plays quiet time-keeper on brushes, employing deft, unobtrusive accents. The jaunty head of "Meandering" is the launching pad for melodic exploration. The rhythm section keeps it tight with repeated patterns, providing a solid platform for Ingram and Moriarty to stretch out. Clohesy gets a little slice of the action towards the end but this tune is more about the collective vibe.
Composer Billy Strayhorn's much-covered "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing" is given a balladic intimacy similar to that on Moriarty's "Ninety Six." One of the highlights of a uniformly engaging recording is the leader's "Delirium," an infectious tune and the most overtly contemporary of the eight compositions. The bright guitar head, built around a skeletal yet propulsive rhythmic frame, serves as the inspiration for Moriarty's cheerily engaging solo. Ingram follows suit and ups the bidding with his most melodically appealing intervention of the set. Moriarty switches to acoustic on the quietly captivating standard "Midnight in Vermont," with sotto voce support from bass and brushes. This tender trio statement makes for a fine send off.
Moriarty's Echoes is a quietly impressive affair. An undemonstrative musician, the guitarist practices the art of gentle seduction, with simpatico support from top rate players. Moriarty is also a luthier and designed and built the 'model-D' archtop he plays. Though these tunes were assembled much faster than the guitar that realizes them, they too hold something organic, heartfelt and utterly persuasive.
Track Listing: Yesterdays; Fall; Echoes of the Future; Ninety Six; Meandering; A Flower is a Lonesome Thing; Delirium; Moonlight in Vermont.
Personnel: John Moriarty: guitar; Randy Ingram: piano; Adam Pache; drums; Matt Clohesy: bass.
Record Label: Lyte Records