One of the best and most ambitious albums to appear last year was Tom Varner's Window Up Above, a wildly eclectic overview of the entire history of American music, from Civil War songs to Duke Ellington to Hank Williams. The guitarist on that release was Pete McCann, who brings the same broad range of musical interests and abilities to Parable, his debut recording as a leader.
Like most of us, McCann clearly listens to a lot of different kinds of music loud rock 'n' roll, avant jazz, funk, even country all of which find their way into his original compositions. McCann and his open-eared quintet of young New York players (saxophonists Peter Epstein and Bruce Huron, bassist Tim Lefebvre, and NYC's drummer-of the-moment Matt Wilson) get things off to a rousing start with the free-blowing, calypso-based "Grimlock." From there, it's on to the explosive jazz-rock of the title tune, which recalls Miles Davis'early electric experiments. Things heat up even more later on with the heavy-metal assault of "Victim Sweepstakes" and the free electric improv "Hoevenen."
Although he makes frequent (and effective) use of fuzz boxes and whammy pedals, McCann also has a softer, romantic side, as evidenced on the acoustic ballad "Mind Bender" and the bossa nova "Patricia," written for his wife. There are traces of Pat Metheney's warm guitar sound on "Open Gate," and more than a hint of Bill Frisell in the country-tinged "Hoedown" and the stone country "Sheriff Bob." And the looming presence of Ornette Coleman's harmolodic vision can be felt throughout. But its the breadth of McCann's musical conception and his undeniable chops in all these diverse areas that impresses most here and makes him a young guitarist to watch.