Guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg's recent Mel Bay Records release, Unearth, focused exclusively on his own writing, with a contemporary aesthetic that placed him smack dab in the middle of turf also explored by Kurt Rosenwinkel and Adam Rogers. New for Now, on the other hand, divides Kreisberg's attention between four original compositions and an equal number of jazz standards. While both records are of a decidedly mainstream nature, New for Now rests more closely towards the center, but that needn't imply that it lacks its own sense of adventure.
While Unearth found Kreisberg in a put-together quintet of fine musicians, his trio on New for Now (with organist Gary Versace and drummer Mark Ferber) has been working together for some time, and it shows. On "Gone with the Wind" Ferber and Versace alternate between a staggered rhythmic approach and a more physically compelling swing that's all the more remarkable given Kreisberg's 5/4 arrangement. Ferber drops out halfway through, leaving Versace and Kreisberg in a free fall, demonstrating their chemistry during a remarkable tandem improvisation. The trio's take on "Stardust" may be more straightforward, but Kreisberg's warm and lyrical approach keeps it from sounding tired, while Versace's soft-toned solo covers so much ground that it's almost a history lesson in organ jazz.
Kreisberg may be a lapsed prog-rocker and fusioneer, but he's done his homework as he's morphed into a modern mainstreamer. The trio's ambling look at Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now" finds Kreisberg stating the theme in stride-like self-accompaniment that owes more than a little to Joe Pass. Versace's solo transfers Monk's quirkiness to the organ, while Ferber's delicately intuitive brushwork builds into a brief solo that's equally reverent of Monk's idiosyncratic sense of humour. The Lawrence/Altman standard "All or Nothing at All" closes the album. Reinvented in 7/4, its similarly choppy rhythmic approach is the perfect bookend to the opening "Gone with the Wind."
Kreisberg's own tunes stretch the limits of the mainstream. The title track features a daunting set of changes that test his and Versace's ability to weave more melodic solos. Since moving to New York in 2002, Versace has become an in demand player on projects from Maria Schneider's and John Hollenbeck's large ensembles to John Scofield's Ray Charles Tribute touring band. He approaches the organ in an almost pianistic way, still taking advantage of its inherent textural possibilities.
The trio revisits Kreisberg's "Peru," also found on Unearth. Although this is a smaller ensemble, there's nothing missing; Versace plays contrapuntally against Kreisberg's theme. "Five Bucks a Bungalow" is a fiery modal exchange that may be a blues, like "Hobroken" on Unearth, but one that's been liberally altered.
Kreisberg's tone and approach on New for Now offers a more centrist version of the mainstream than Unearth did. Still, with an open-ended harmonic viewpoint and post-Metheny linearity, the recording remains steadfastly forward-looking.
Personnel: Jonathan Kreisberg: guitar; Gary Versace: Hammond B3 organ; Mark Ferber: drums.