Spanish jazz guitarist Ximo Tebar is a restless explorer. Over the years he has experimented with the blues and organ/guitar/drum trios with the likes of Lou Bennet, Lonnie Liston Smith, and most notably Joey DeFrancesco, with whom Tebar led the pulsating band The Champs.
His excursions into pop (or Mediterranean Son, as Tebar himself has described it) have raised more than a few critical eyebrows, but genres aside, the constant in all of his records is his stylish guitar playing, with beautiful singing lines that have his personality stamped all over them. Eclipse is largely a straight-ahead affair of mostly Tebar originals which sit well alongside two Wayne Shorter tunes and one apiece by Joe Henderson and Oscar Pettiford.
Any jazz police investigating "stolen" songs would find Tebar's fingerprints everywhere on the four non-originals: his unflashy yet distinctive phrasing, his scatting mirroring his guitar lines or perhaps vice versa, and the very personal trademark punctuation that he gives his solos. For this reason, these four songs are very much the property of Ximo Tebar.The two Shorter compositions in particular"ESP, with a subtle Brazilian feel, and "Pinnocchio," with Tebar's vocal scattingare testament to his originality and refusal to compromise his musical ideas.
The tone of the album is significantly influenced by ex-Spyro Gyra vibraphonist Dave Samuels, who in the past has graced the work of Gerry Mulligan, Frank Zappa and Pat Metheny, to name but a few. On "Inner Urge Samuels shadows Tebar note for note before peeling away to solo beautifully. And on "My Evidence he plays Thelonius Monk to Tebar's John Coltrane in a compelling tribute to two of the giants of jazz.
Another strength of the album lies in the group chemistry. Tebar and Samuels enjoy the lion's share of the solos, while the understated and refined support from pianist/organist Rob Bargad and percussionist Roland Guerrero lends depth and cohesion to the compositions. Drummer Donald Edwards and bassist Cesar Giner form an impressive rhythm section; they inject pace into the tunes, driving Tebar and Samuels on.
Although the songs contained on Eclipse are mostly up-tempo, Tebar's credentials as a great balladeer (his concert favorite "Besame Mucho" is legendary) are enhanced here by his playing on "Mensaje and the beautiful title track.
Eclipse is one of the Valencian guitarist's most satisfying records in an already impressive discography. Those familiar with Tebar will find an ever-maturing composer in grand form here. Those new to his music will discover here an outstanding guitarist, and they may well wonder why they haven't heard of him before now.
Personnel: Ximo Tebar: guitar and scat vocals; Dave Samuels: Vibes and marimba; Cesar Giner: bass
(2,4,5-7,9-11); Anthony Jackson: bass (1,3,8); Rob Bargad: electric piano, organ, piano;
Donald Edwards: drums; Dario Boente: synths (2,3); Roland Guerrero: percussion.