The debut recording of the aptly named guitarist Josh Workman is indeed a highlight of this year. There are endorsements on the cover by jazz plectrists Jim Hall, Gene Bertoncini, and Peter Bernstein, some of the best guitarists on the scene. Josh Workman is a Bay Area resident who returned to San Francisco in the mid-'90s after spending time in the New York area. He has previously recorded with Larry Vuckovich, Indigo Swing, and the Jazz Passengers.
Jumpin' At the Border has been packaged with an attractive selection of standards and originals in a variety of settings. For example, the first three tracks provide a typical indication of things to come. The title tune is a bright bebop original. Miles Davis' "Sippin' at Bell's" presents Noel Jewkes on tenor sax as the leading voice, with Workman providing rhythm comping behind the sax solo. "Andre de Sapato Novo" is a form of Brazilian choro music that displays the guitarist's dexterity. Later, we get to sample the bolero "Na Me Platique Mas" and the bossa nova "Nono," borrowed from the '53 Braziliance album of Bud Shank and Laurindo Almeida. That album presented the first use of the genre on an American recording.
Then we are given Workman's take on Django Reinhardt in "Kali Sara," aided by the Hot Club of San Francisco. Vocalist Kim Nalley sings on two of the selections. On her best offering, a medley of "I Can't Face The Music/I Want A Little Boy," Nalley's vocal is augmented by a series of short bluesy solos, first by Workman, then Jewkes, followed by Vuckovich, who slips in some very effective Red Garland-like figures.
The album is adroitly arranged by pianist Vuckovich, who appears on most of the tracks, as well as reedman Jewkes, who also plays soprano sax and flute. John Santos, a veteran percussionist who has worked with Tito Puente, provides an added pulse and the drumming is shared by Harold Jones, formerly with the Basie Band, and Omar Clay, who had been with Mingus. Josh Workman is obviously a musician who is not only comfortable with a number of different guitar styles but also quite proficient with them. I hear lots of Wes Montgomery influences in his sure-footed playing.
Personnel: Josh Workman - electric and acoustic guitars; Larry Vuckovich - Piano; Omar Clay,Harold Jones -
Drums; Noel Jewkes Flute - Saxophones; Nat Johnson, Buca Necak, Perry Thorsell - Bass; Kim Nalley -
Vocals; Evan Price Violin; John Santos - Percussion; The Hot Club of San Francisco Evan Price - Violin,
Paul Mehling - Guitar, Ari Munkres - Bass (track 12)