Mel Bay 3 (MB3): Jazz Hits Volume 1 (2006)
Those who like jazz guitar in abundance should string along with this solid offering from Mel Bay, a budding label exclusively aimed at fans of that musical genre. Unlike the guitar trio music released by Concord back in the '80s, this disc has a more modern bent, rather than coming from a Swing Era perspective. The tunes, which should be de rigueur for modern jazz fans, are largely circa 1950s/'60s.
The members of MB3which seems to stand for Mel Bay 3are guitarists Jimmy Bruno, Vic Juris and Corey Christiansen, with bassist Jay Anderson (who also did the engineering in his New Paltz, New York studio) and drummer Danny Gottlieb. While Anderson and Gottlieb mostly support unobtrusively and keep things cooking, the fleet-fingered leaders avoid trampling on one another's lines. There are no guitar warriors here, no egos flashing, just a multifaceted string love fest. The liner notes don't really break down who solos where, and no aural array is spelled out to indicate where soloists are placed in the mix. That matters not, of course, because the music is all very good. One can just say that Bruno's sound is more jazzy, while Juris tends toward the funky vein, and Christiansen is somewhere in between.
The tunes on Jazz Hits Volume 1 are set up nicely to keep things from being all smoke and burn. Horace Silver's "Peace" cools the relative heat created by the opening trio of tracks, while Miles Davis' "All Blues" is treated to a Delta blues guitar start and finish by Christiansen. The slow blues feel continues with Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance," then turns to a stately samba version of "On Green Dolphin Street." Things move back up-tempo with Davis' "Milestones" before "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise," taken at a bluesy medium pace, leads to a shifting, strutting "Killer Joe." The ten tunes are given different and fitting rearrangements by the co-leaders; Juris and Bruno contribute three each, Christiansen four.
Innovation? No. Exciting, often inspired guitar work? In spades.
Track Listing: Solar; Cantaloupe Island; Impressions; Peace; All Blues; Freedom Jazz Dance; On Green Dolphin Street; Milestones; Softly As in a Morning Sunrise; Killer Joe.
Personnel: Vic Juris, Jimmy Bruno, Corey Christiansen: various guitars; Jay Anderson: bass; Danny Gottlieb: drums.