Steve Masakowski Trio: Live at Snug Harbor
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
A no-frills session by New Orleans-based guitarist Steve Masakowski's trio that swings hard when necessary and embodies elements of surpassing warmth and loveliness as well. Perhaps "session" should be plural, as the disc actually covers two dates recorded at Snug Harbor in the fall of 1997 (Masakowski says he started recording "to document some of my trio playing," and only later was persuaded to release the tapes on CD). As I'm no guitar aficianodo, I can't identify Masakowski's main influences; what I can report is that his luminous chords and graceful single-note runs are meticulously crafted and musically pleasing. Masakowski's clear, expansive sound is convincing in all ranges, and his improvisational well never seems to run dry (a happy circumstance, as most of the solos are his). Choice of material is, of course, an important element in any guitar trio gig, and Masakowski merits a high-five for including the standards "Alone Together," "Invitation" and Kurt Weill's "This Is New." His own composition, "Sidewalk Strut," which closes the session, is a graphic New Orleans-style shuffle (marred only by a clearly audible off-color remark by an audience member, which I for one would prefer not to have to hear every time the "Strut" is played). Alto saxophonist Turbinton makes a splendid guest appearance on Billy Eckstine's sensuous ballad, "I Want to Talk About You." Less absorbing are Horace Silver's "The Jody Grind," Monk's "Bolivar Blues" and Trane's "Giant Steps." Masakowski's rhythm section - bassist Huntington, drummers Marsalis or Vidacovich - is consistently alert and supportive, with the drummers employing brushes most of the way. Huntington's big, resonant sound complements an unwavering metronomic purpose. But Masakowski is at the center of this vortex, and if he is not, as Turbinton boldly proclaims at the end of the program, "the best guitarist in the world," he is nonetheless capable, and definitely worth hearing.
Alone Together; This Is New; Invitation; The Jody Grind; I Want to Talk About You; Bolivar Blues; Giant Steps; Sidewalk Strut (61:44).
Steve Masakowski, seven-string guitar; Bill Huntington, bass; Jason Maralis, drums (tracks 1, 2, 5-7); John Vidacovich, drums (tracks 3, 4, 8); Earl Turbinton, alto sax (track 5).
Record Label: Marz