Mark McKnight: Do or Die (2011)
The artwork of Mark McKnight's Do Or Die depicts scenes from a chasean escapee fleeing his assailants to the top of building, before making the decision to jump or not. But this action adventure implication is only one aspect to the guitarist's impressive sophomore release which encompasses progressive music in the vein of fret-board wizards Kurt Rosenwinkel and Nir Felder. Equally convincing is McNight's handling of Rodgers and Hart's popular show tune, "Bewitched," originally titled "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," from the 1940 musical, Pal Joey.
The question of why a 1940's American Songbook classic was chosen remains a mystery, but the more important answer is heard in McKnight and his group's superb handling of the source material. The song's pace and phrasing are left intact, with minimal liberties taken. The mood is still one of romance and wonder, suffused with soft ruminations from organist Ross Stanley, workmanship accents by drummer James Maddren, and gorgeous explorations of the theme by McKnight and saxophonist Seamus Blake, who trade with fluidness, intensity and feeling. Both soloists' voices are richly drawn: McKnight, in particular, creating a canopy of thought-provoking and emotive mood.
This ballad has always been enchanting, but this group adds or takes nothing from it, other than to inject its own identity into a fine interpretation.
Personnel: Mark McKnight: guitar; Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Ross Stanley: organ; James Maddren: drums.
Record Label: Whirlwind Recordings Ltd