Karl Weismantel: In Hand (2008)
Vocalist and guitarist Karl Weismantel's In Hand is a laidback collection of vocal jazz standards, arranged by Weismantel for his working trio. The album features Peter Miles and Von Barlow on drums as well as Jason Davis and Paul Creel sharing the bass duties. Each track was arranged for the ensemble by Weismantel in a similar fashion to classic Chet Baker recordings where the late trumpeter sang and played on each tune.
Weismantel's vocal style comes across in a smooth and sultry fashion throughout the album. While most of these classic jazz tunes have been recorded many times over the years, Weismantel breathes new life into the lyrics and melodies of each tune. Though his approach to arranging is similar to that of Baker's, Weismantel prefers to improvise on guitar, and does not scat during the album, as Baker was known to do.
Weismantel's guitar playing is firmly rooted in the bebop and swing jazz traditions, and can be heard as both a lead and backing instrument on In Hand. During the vocal tracks, such as "Old Devil Moon" and "Until the Real Thing Comes Along," Weismantel effectively sets up the melody section of each tune with a well-crafted guitar introduction. During the solo sections, Weismantel lays down simple, yet effective, melody-based improvisations that compliment his vocal stylings. While he may not be reinventing the wheel, Weismantel has a knack for choosing the right combination of licks and runs to create both memorable and enjoyable solos.
In addition to the album's vocal tunes, there are a number of strictly instrumental tracks that are used to showcase the improvisational prowess of each member of the ensemble. Tunes such as "Someday my Prince Will Come" and "Monk's Dream" feature some of the best ensemble work on the album. Of particular note is Miles' solo drum intro on "Monk's Dream"while not particularly fancy, his short, jagged rhythms and referencing of the melody on his kit bring out the essence of the tune in one of the disc's most compelling moments.
In Hand attempts to shed new light on tunes that have become staples of any jazz musician's repertoire. In choosing to reinterpret classic jazz tunes, Weismantel sticks his neck out and takes a bit of a risk with his song choices. While his arrangements are not going to revolutionize how musicians think about these tunes, the subtle changes that Weismantle brings to each track have resulted in an album that is both easy to listen to and provides a new view on some well-known jazz literature.
Track Listing: Old Devil Moon; Until the Real Thing Comes Along; Someday My Prince Will Come; Summer Wind; Monk's Dream; Stars Fell on Alabama; In Your Own Sweet Way; Carolina Moon; You and the Night and the Music; I'm Just a Lucky So and So; It's Ten After; Moon and Sand.
Personnel: Karl Weismantel: guitar, vocals; Peter Miles: drums (1-8, 10-12); Von Barlow: drums (9); Jason Davis: bass (1-8, 10, 12); Paul Creel: bass (7, 9, 11).
Record Label: Self Produced