There is a small, select group of contemporary jazz musicians who when they release a new album, the question is not whether it's going to be good but rather, "how good". Guitarist Howard Alden falls four square into this community of consummate jazz artists and his position in the group is further solidified by his latest from Concord Jazz, My Shining Hour
. Playing the both the electric and acoustic 7 string archtop guitar, Alden gets a fullness, a richness of sound and timbre, without being smeary, that is rarely matched among his fellow axe players. He can do his own counterpoint and call and response as evident on one of his originals written by his friend and sometimes playing partner George Van Eps. The harmonic inventions permitted by the instrument in the hands of a master such as Alden are incalculable. In addition to the originals, the play list has plenty of standards to test Alden's improvisional skills and to give these oft played tunes a new coat of musical sunshine. In this regard, Alden becomes a master painter on "Gone with the Wind", "All Too soon", "My Shining Hour" and the inevitable "Girl from Ipanema". One of Alden's favorites, George Gershwin's "Isn't It a Pity" gets special treatment as Alden plays out the melody while at the same time improvising around it. A sterling track of music.
Almost as intriguing as the musical performance is the fact that the liner notes were written by guitar legend Johnny Smith. A leading jazz guitar performer, with an almost classical bent during the ‘50's, Smith picked up in 1958 and moved to Denver where he played and recorded occasionally and where he still lives. The story is that he dropped out because he war tired of dealing with the crooks and rip off artists who were running the record companies. There are two good Internet sites devoted to Smith. The first is www.csindy.com/csindy/2001-03-15/ cover.html which brings you up to date on what Smith is doing these days. There is a Johnny Smith discography page at www.gould68.freeserve.co.uk/jsmith.html, lovingly and thoroughly maintained by Dave Gould. Coincidentally, Gould also maintains a similar page for Alden at www.gould68.freeserve. co.uk/howardalden.html.