How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Lines is an intellectually engaging and emotionally stimulating release by L.A. based guitarist extraordinaire Jon Bremen. Bremen and his quintet perform with a very tight groove throughout, though they are just loose enough to allow each tune to ebb and flow into new and exciting directions. This strong group dynamic, coupled with compelling compositions and energetic improvisations, come together to produce an album that pays tribute to the jazz tradition while breaking new ground in the realm of the guitar quintet.
One of the most striking aspects of Bremen's playing is his tone. While there is a plethora of young guitarists on the scene today who choose to emulate the tones of players such as Kurt Rosenwinkel
, Bremen prefers a drier tone than most modern players, which gives his lines a refreshing sense of definition and clarity. Finding a unique and personal tone on the guitar, especially in the jazz world, is becoming a rare occurrence in today's scene. It's one of the main reasons why Bremen's playing is memorable and instantly stands out from the crowd.
Aside from his unique tone, Bremen's playing also contains a personalized sense of harmony and melody. At some points it's steeped in traditional jazz vocabulary and at others he's breaking new sonic territory with his creative use of chord-substitution and modal coloring. His solo on "Two Buck Chuck" is a great example of the modern and traditional dichotomy that defines Bremen's style. The solo showcases the guitarist's incredible chops, which are both technically facile and clean, while providing some of the most interesting harmonic and melodic moments on the record. Between the harmonic and technical acrobatics, Bremen brings forth his strong sense of bebop vocabulary within the context of shorter melodic phrases that cleanse the sonic palette before he unleashes the next double-time line.
The quintet is also in fine form throughout the album as they make strong contributions as both compers and soloists. Of note is Ariel Alexander's always melodic, yet dissonantly engaging, saxophone work. Her lines are always deep in the pocket of the tune, while she's also able to push and pull at the groove, adding a new dimension to her advanced harmonic and melodic soloing concept. Her solo on "Happenings," which she also wrote, displays her ability to weave in and out of the modern and traditional vernacular with her lines and time feel, creating a sense of timelessness in her solo that is felt throughout her playing on this record.
Lines provides a new and unique perspective of the jazz quintet, while still paying tribute to the historiography of the music. The songs are well written, the grooves are always tight and the solos are highly creative.
Track Listing: Two Buck Chuck; Out of Touch; This Much; Propoganda; Happenings; Holiday in Dubai; Which Way is Home?.
Personnel: Jon Bremen: guitar; Gary Fukushima: piano; Ariel Alexander: sax; Ryan McGillicuddy: bass; Dan Schnelle: drums.