While rocked-up holy barbarians like Charlie Hunter explode the boundaries of jazz guitar playing, there's still plenty of juice in the straight-ahead traditionin the right pair of hands. Pat Martino proved that last year with his gob-smackingly inventive Wes Montgomery tribute on Blue Note, Remember
. Lest we forget, British-based player Cameron Pierre sings his own legacy-affirming song on Pad Up (Get Ready)
Martino's reference point is the timeline connecting Charlie Christian and Montgomery. The younger Pierre's is a decade or two further on, falling somewhere between Montgomery's innovations and George Benson's later, and lusher, codifications. Born in Britain but raised in the Dominican Republic, he also brings a splash of Caribbean roots music, particularly calypso, to the mix.
Pad Up is Pierre's fifth album (his first was in 1997), and his most consciously straight-ahead yet. Producer Courtney Pine adds baritone saxophone to the theme statements of two tracks, but on the rest Pierre is accompanied only by Anders Olinder on Hammond organ and Rod Youngs on drums. With a technique not far behind Martino's, flowing melodicism, and split-atom command of time, Pierre dances up and down the fretboard, his lightning-fast single-note runs given breathing space by more measured, Montgomery-esque twin-octave passages.
All but three of the tracks are Pierre originals, reminiscent of Montgomery and Benson, lyrical and swinging. Of the covers, Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" gets a Latin-infused reading and Bill Lee's "Mo' Better Blues" a smoky one. Only the Stereophonics' "The Bartender And The Thief" seems superfluous; Pierre included it because he likes the tune, which is a good reason, but he doesn't do much with it.
Swedish-born, British-based organist Anders Olinder is sensational, as anyone who knows him from saxophonist Tony Kofi's defiantly retro hard bop workout Future Passed already knows. He doesn't get quite as much spotlight here as he did on the Kofi set, and the nature of the material on Pad Up means he's cooking on a cooler flame, but he nonetheless makes a massive impression. In appearance the antithesis of first generation, chicken-shack organists, Olinder may be the most exciting and convincing keeper of the B3 flame we have today. American expat drummer Rod Youngs anchors everything unobtrusively and solidly.
Pad Up may not take you far down a road less travelled, but it reveals fresh nuances along the arterial route of the jazz guitar tradition. (The album's title and several of the track titles, by the by, are references to cricket, a British/Caribbean passion.)
Personnel: Cameron Pierre: guitar; Anders Olinder: Hammond organ; Rod Youngs: drums; Courtney Pine: baritone saxophone (3,10).