Jackie King's career has seen him playing in any number of settings. R&B, country, jazz - he plays them all equally well, and with great passion. Though his MOON MAGIC (Indigo Moon Records) sits squarely in the mainstream jazz camp, you can hear that rich assortment of influences combining in his playing, making this disc one of the most compelling to come my way in a while.
The concept behind the album is quite simple. King has chosen a handful of standards, all having the word "moon" in their title. When he plugs in his 1974 Byrdland, the "magic" begins.
It's a trio date with Michael Aragon on drums and Wilbur Krebs on bass. "I've always loved trio albums," says the guitarist. "For example, my favorite Wes Montgomery album was BOSS GUITAR when he played with just a trio, and I always liked the Bill Evans Trio." That should alert you to the fact that King & Co. are inclined to stretch out quite a bit, providing for some free-wheeling improvisations.
Without a doubt, it is King's incredible speed and technique which will make the initial impression on the listener. His take on the Billie Holiday number, "What a Little Moonlight Can Do" is a perfect example, with bassist Krebs matching him note for note in a furious game of string tag. However, once one gets beyond the sheer dazzle, they will find that the guitarist has a seemingly endless stream of extemporaneous ideas. He takes comfortable themes like "Moon River" and "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and develops them into ever expanding tendrils of melody.
Drummer Aragon powers the trio with the same combination of chops and taste that distinguishes his colleagues. Of particular note is his non-stop Latin groove on "How High the Moon."
If you thrill to the pyrotechnics of guys like Jimmy Bruno and Joe Pass, you won't be disappointed by Jackie King. MOON MAGIC is a five star, virtuoso performance.