Of all jazz genres free jazz is arguably the most misunderstood. Ask your average throng of Wynton Marsalis disciples to describe its attributes and adjectives such as “loud”, “dissonant”, “abrasive,” “self-indulgent” are likely to spring from their lips in reply. Though many free improvisers incorporate elements in their music that could be described with these kinds of appellations there are others that come at the approach from a completely different direction. Andrew Cheshire is one such cat. His sound on guitar balances a chordal versatility with an affinity for slipping outside standard progressions and playing beyond such parameters. Whatever his chosen method at any given moment, his strings convey a warmth and fluidity that immediate transcends any stylistic distinctions. Crisply intoned single note runs blend with lubricious chords in a confluent combination guaranteed to pique the ears. In sum he’s a freely improvising guitarist who still retains all of the ‘inside’ lyricism that is commonly associated with mainstream jazz guitarists.
Though he’s only cut a handful of albums thus far in his career Chesire’s been playing since his teens and a punctilious prowess gleaned from long hours of practice informs his technique. A further testament to his musical savvy is his choice of associates. The disc is split essentially down the middle with a different pair of players backing Cheshire on each half. Juxtaposed beside one another it’s interesting to hear how Cheshire interacts with each team. McClure and Hart are far more conventional in terms of their approach to rhythmic accompaniment than Duval and Rosen. As a result the interplay of the first five tunes sounds more formerly scripted even though passages of collective improvisation are interspersed with composed sections. Cheshire appears more relaxed on these initial pieces, secure in the comparative predictability of his partners.
Conversely the mood is more agitated and expansive on the final five tracks where Cheshire sounds audibly challenged by the redoubtable combination of Duval and Rosen. These two players have served as the rhythmic fulcrum on over a dozen CIMP sessions and have sharpened their improvisatory teeth playing with some of the most formidable improvisers in the world. Cheshire acclimatizes himself rather well however and the trio runs through a solid succession of improvisation-laden pieces including several standards. A deceptively simple reworking of Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro-Blue” acts as an effective closer.
The finest jazz musicians are those who balance an abiding love for the music’s history with a firm resolve to find and advance their own voice. Judging from his work thus far Cheshire fits snugly into this framework and stands poised to make an indelible mark on the canvas of improvised music. A strong factor working in his favor is the manner in which his music and approach accentuate the benefits of both free and chordal improvisation and effectively bridge both camps.
Tracks:Magic/ Ballad/ To Love Again/ A.Z. Lives/ Dream/ Song*/ Blues on Mars*/ Invitation*/ Nefertiti*/ Afro Blue*.
Players:Andrew Chesire- electric guitar; Ron McClure- bass; Billy Hart- drums; Dominic Duval- bass*; Jay Rosen- drums.
Recorded: September 18, 1999, Brooklyn, NY and January 27, 1999, Pittston, PA*.