Tied Up In Strings: Guitarists Daniel Bruce & Didier Verna
Its history deeply ingrained with that of the blues, country & western and rock 'n' roll, the electric guitar has acquired its lettres de noblesse in jazz in the hands of but a few truly innovatory players. Iconic figures such as Charlie Christian, Freddie Green, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Jim Hall and more recently, Adam Rogers, Ben Monder and Wayne Krantz have us forget the instrument's stigma and inherent limitations. And although its enfant terrible status is kept alive by a crew of admirable rascals, one must acknowledge that the guitar has a malleability and expressiveness the piano does not possess.
A Single Thread
Ohioian Daniel Bruce's A Single Thread combines his learned guitar work, which is at times reminiscent of Ben Monder (especially on "Some Towns,") with substantive yet airy, contemporary sounding compositions. Bruce is joined by saxophonist Brian Donohoe, trumpeter Ken Edwards, keyboardist Matt Lawless, bassist Scott Trayer and drummer Ross Pederson, and the North Texas State University alumni steer through the set of originals (all but one by Bruce) with evident camaraderie.
"A.M." is a burning, up-tempo track that features Lawless, Bruce and Pederson, the latter in a beautifully phrased solo that showcases his complete mastery of stick control techniques. The leader's use of ample, wavery lines and legato phrasing in his solo is rendered in a pleasurable, rolling flow reminiscent of John Abercrombie's best work. More, the above-mentioned "Some Towns," a trio track with Pederson and Trayer, reveals a skilled, seasoned player, one capable of filling the space left by an accompanying harmonic instrument with aplomb and finesse.
For variety, a nylon string is used on "Autumn," a serene ballad whose theme is intoned by the bass, and a lap steel, a rarity in jazz, is heard on "Etranger."
French player Didier Verna also learned his lesson well, too well maybe. Essentially a succession of musical homages to his guitar influences, his @-quartet finds him in the company of a blue-collar rhythm section of the same name.
On the opener, "Corridor," he cops superstar Pat Metheny's characteristic sound, style and phrasing on the tune's minor blues changes. "Mururoa" is a rhythm change in the same vein as Mike Stern's "Suspone." John Scofield'ss music is also honoured in "M.Scoff" and "The Hunt." The first paraphrases "Some Nerve" from Meant To Be (Blue Note, 1991) and "Wabash III" from Time On My Hands (Blue Note, 1990,) while the second, a dark, haunting bass line in half notes, reminds of the master's repetitive, low-end compositions ("I Can See Your House From Here" comes to mind.)
What could easily have turned into a dreadful disposition due to lack of originality and/or stylistic continuity, is rescued by Verna's skill and control over his "borrowings." That said, his music remains a synthesis of ingested external elements, with a personality only on the verge of coming through.
In short, Verna is a force of nature. He has the technique and the talent to take it to another level. Let us hope he does.
Tracks and Personel
A Single Thread
Tracks: A Single Thread; Sofa; Some Towns; A.M.; Autumn; Étranger; Whisper.
Personnel: Daniel Bruce: electric, nylon string and lap steel guitars; Brian Donohoe: tenor saxophone; Ken Edwards: trumpet & flügelhorn; Matt Lawless: piano & Fender Rhodes; Scott Trayer: bass; Ross Pederson: drums.
Tracks: Corridor; Printemptation; Les Maléties; Song For L.; Offset Blues; Paris-Nice; The Hunt; Mururoa; M.Scoff.
Personnel: Didier Verna: guitar; Gilles Naturel: bass; Guillaume Naud: piano; David Georgelet: drums.