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Journeyman guitarist Paul Bollenback's Invocation is just that: a shout-out and a summoning forth of the muses, representing a high point in a consistent and substantial oeuvre. This sophomore release for Elefant Dreams is a departure from the guitarist's R&B cover-heavy material found on several of his five earlier recordings for Challenge. Like Brightness of Being (2006), its immediate predecessor, Invocation features the wordless vocalese of Chris McNulty, who doubles the melody on "Alter Ego" and harmonizes with trumpet and guitar on the first section of the title track; more importantly, it juxtaposes trumpeter Randy Brecker as musical foil and second lead, an apposite meeting of creative sensibilities, as is apparent on the collaborative improvisations over the opening and title tracks and especially during the sensitive rendition of John Coltrane's "After the Rain" that closes out the disc. Victor Lewis and Ed Howard (on drums and bass, respectively) fill out the ensemble.
As with his earlier work, this outing showcases Bollenback's sterling chops, bluesy sensibility, dry-toned delivery and unerring ear for reharmonizations and arrangements: "Emily" is a vehicle for world-class chord soloing; "Alter Ego" exhibits a nice balance of simultaneous comping and single-note lines; "Dancing Leaf" boasts a compelling melody, fleshed out with a seamless pastiche of fluid phraseology; and the intro to "Everything Must Change" proves Bollenback to be a subtle touch across a gamut of guitar textures. It's all summed up by "Invocation, Part I", the centerpiece that surpasses its compositional constraints to become an exploration and expansion of shared emotion.
Track Listing: Dancing Leaf; Alter Ego; How Deep is the Ocean; Everything Must Change; Invocation, Part 1; Invocation, Part 2; Emily; Songline; After the Rain.
Personnel: Paul Bollenback: guitar; Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Victor Lewis: drums; Ed Howard: bass; Chris McNulty: vocals.