A presence in the Northeast jazz scene, and certainly known by the students and faculty of the Berklee School Of Music, guitarist Steve Rochinski unfortunately was unable to scrape together the resources for more than a self-produced CD until recently. His "Until Further Notice" garnered the acclaim of those who heard it, but without distribution and marketing, the word about Steve Rochinski didn't spread too far his base in Boston.
His first Jardis-released CD, "A Bird In Hand," all of a sudden caught the notice of the listening public and guitar enthuasiasts. Now, Rochinski follows up with a work of varied repertoire and configurations of musicians.
The consistent element throughout Otherwise, though, is the resonance of Rochinski's sound on the archtop. Shunning electronic enhancement or even fusion- or rock-influenced sound alteration, Rochinski is true to himself when he remains within the tradition of the bop-influenced masters of the instrument like Jimmy Raney, Joe Pass or Tal Farlow, who happened to be his mentor.
Thus, Rochinski employs a rich, natural sound from his instrument, the notes clearly defined and the improvisational lines logical and focused. The opening track, Antonio Carlos Jobim's not-so-commonly-heard "God And The Devil In The Land Of The Sun," sets up a surging vamp and engaging harmonic lines between Rochinski and pianist Chip Stephens. As a result, it could have evolved into a soundscape type of tableau as the musicians eventually disconnect and go free. Instead, Rochinski remains intent on plumbing the richness of the tune while making a point about its percussive insistence. It wasn't necessary to become an exercise in free improvisation to make the statement Rochinski wanted.
The contrast with the next track, Rochinski's tune "The Thrill Of It All," is striking, for singer Donna McElroy joins in to deliver the words on a combination torch song/ballad. After a meditative introduction, the song turns into straight-ahead swing, and its repeated cycle of fourths eventually fades out. While much is made in the liner notes to compare McElroy to Ella Fitzgerald, I don't hear the same girlish wisdom. Rather, McElroy is a fine singer in her own right with a sure sense of swing implicit in her voice.
Rochinski then breaks down Barney Kessel's "Swedish Pastry" and Duke Ellington's "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart" in a duo with bassist Jim Stinnett, all the more to emphasize their relaxed counterpoint and give-and-take. As the penultimate, and thus attention-getting, medley, "Continuation On An Afterthought" and "Love Song" pay tribute to yet another of Rochinski's influences, Carl Kress. Rochinski takes it alone, and the tunes, three minutes apiece, allow for comfortable development and conclusion.
As if to prove their ability to swing hard, the quartet ends Otherwise with an energetic take on "Almost Like Being In Love." Even at its elevated tempo, the group-and especially Stephensadds character and improvisational fire throughout the tune.
A matured guitarist with full command of his instrument and musical integrity, Steve Rochinski has released an album that no doubt is a reflection of his wide-ranging interests and too-long-unrecognized talent.
Track Listing: God And The Devil In The Land Of The Sun, The Thrill Of It All*, Swedish Pastry, I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart, Summer Night, I'm All Smiles, All The Shirts I Own, Continuation On An Afterthought, Love Song, Almost Like Being In Love
Personnel: Steve Rochinski, guitar; Chip Stephens, piano; Joe Hunt, drums; Jim Stinnett, bass; Donna McElroy, vocal*