As a first-call support artist, you must be an adaptable and, of course, knowledgeable player, possessing a broad musical vernacular. Guitarist Mike Clinco
transmits these attributes on his 2009 release, featuring a top-flight ensemble of proven jazz veterans. It's easy to discern why Clinco has been summoned to perform with vocalists Bobby McFerrin and Natalie Cole amid sessions with the late operatic star, Luciano Pavarotti.
Sparked by radiant horn choruses atop the guitarist's largely melodic original compositions, the entire program looms as an exercise in good taste. Clinco often caresses a given theme via animated single note licks and a fluid delivery. His lines are not only breezy, but project a forceful mode of attack. Saxophonist Bob Sheppard
and flugelhornist Walt Fowler
serve as strong foils for the leader as they interweave storylines and render expressive solos.
Clinco steps on the distortion pedal during "X Cue Says," where Sheppard's edgy phrasings on tenor sax portray a rather cheery gait, abetted by perky choruses and crisp accents. With other pieces, the band executes circular motifs, and spunky jazz waltz grooves, chock full of harmonious textures. In addition, Clinco uses an acoustic guitar on the sublime piece titled "Charade," composed by his former employer Henry Mancini.
The album is not about technical gymnastics. Clinco and his bandmates rev it up in spots, but the improvisational aspects are designed around various motifs and theme-building exercises. The release is a highly listenable gala, driven by the fact that Clinco makes his point sans glitter, glitz or excruciatingly long solos.
Personnel: Mike Clinco: guitar; Bob Sheppard: woodwinds; Walt Fowler: flugelhorn; Darek Oleszkiewicz: acoustic bass; Jimmy Johnson: electric bass; Jimmy Branly: drums, percussion.