This is a guitar lover’s album. Frank Portolese plays standards as they’ve been done before and he also turns it loose with a free spirit and a loose structure. Alternating groups, the guitarist works standards with piano trio for six tracks, stretches out with Brian Sandstrom and Rusty Jones for four, and paints the title track as a soulful, cryin’ in your beer, unaccompanied blues wail.
Portolese’s guitar tone is different. Neil Tesser points out in the album’s liner notes that this guitar was constructed in 1965 by Bill Barker. The Barker guitar gives Portolese a light, but edgy sound. He uses a pick with fluid ease; however, the resonant qualities of his instrument result in phrases that end prematurely. It’s a style that we identify with bebop. Without a lasting ring, the instrument clips notes and allows the performer to move quickly through adventurous territory.
Influenced by Joe Pass, the leader exhibits a natural link to light, easygoing melodic navigation. Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” and three of the leader’s originals place guitar, bass and drums in the role of free, creative, trio improvisation. Each of the three artists unleashes empathetic ideas that produce exciting interplay.
With piano trio, Wayne Shorter’s “Virgo” floats gently to chorded guitar melodies, while burners such as Horace Silver’s “Room 608” swing with a hard bop soulfulness. Last Call, Portolese’s second album, brings straight-ahead jazz guitar out into the open with a distinctive sound and a familiar format.
Personnel: Frank Portolese- guitar; Larry Luchowski- piano; Dave Marr, Brian Sandstrom- bass; Tim Davis, Rusty Jones- drums.