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Known for his pop-fusion work with Spyro Gyra, Michael Franks, and others, guitarist Jay Azzolina steps into the straight-ahead jazz arena with this record. The lineup is heavy: Chris Potter on sax, Charles Blenzig on piano, John Patitucci on bass, and Adam Nussbaum on drums. Fleet-fingered lines and burning swing abound on "Ben Hur, Ben Him" and "Rhythms Change." Darker, more delicate sounds emerge from "The Totem" and "Black Waltz." "Inside Pies Eyes" and "Marvelous Marvin" recall the pared-down trio music of John Scofield’s Shinola and Out Like a Light, while "Lil’ Red" recalls the piano/guitar duels of Scofield’s Rough House. Indeed, Azzolina’s writing and edgy guitar sound owe much — perhaps a little too much — to Scofield. At times his style is derivative, his tone a bit thin and nasal.
Also on the down side, Azzolina closes the album with a hopelessly cheesy version of Kurt Weill’s "My Ship," featuring his wife Jill Azzolina on vocals. It’s the final uneven moment of this somewhat uneven album. However, Azzolina’s prowess as a player is not in doubt, and his alliances with musicians like Potter and Patitucci promise better things to come.
Tracks: 1. Ben Hur, Ben Him 2. Inside Pie’s Eyes 3. Black Waltz 4. Lil’ Red 5. The Totem 6. Rhythms Change 7. Marvelous Marvin 8. My Ship
Jay Azzolina, guitar; Chris Potter, tenor sax; John Patitucci, bass; Charles Blenzig, piano; Adam Nussbaum, drums