Graham Dechter: Takin' It There (2012)
A quartet is usually a self-contained collection of four, but sometimes these groupings serve as part of a greater whole; guitarist Graham Dechter's foursome does both. Dechter, drummer Jeff Hamilton, bassist John Clayton and pianist Tamir Hendelman serve as the rhythmic power source for the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra but they can also stand on their own in fine, grooving fashion.
Dechter, in his mid-twenties at the time of this recording, has been keeping company with Clayton and Hamilton since he joined the rhythm section of their illustrious orchestra when he was only nineteen. He played the hell out the guitar back then and he's continued to mature at a rapid pace ever since. Right On Time (Capri, 2009) gave him an opportunity to spread his wings and fly as a leader for the first time, fronting the very same rhythm unit that gave him his first big break, and Takin' It There is round two from this team.
These guys have all made their individual and collective reputations on the fact that they keep better time than a Rolex, so this fact isn't really worth an at-length discussion. The leader's style, direction and vision, however, deserve comment. Dechter may be operating in the present, but it doesn't seem to be his favorite time. The young guitarist is a '50s and '60s jazz devotee and it comes through in every way. His song choices, which reference guitar greats like Wes Montgomery ("Road Song") and Barney Kessel ("Be Deedle Dee Do"), bossa nova kingpin Antonio Carlos Jobim ("Chega De Saudade") and trumpeter Lee Morgan ("Hocus Pocus") are the first indication. His playing, which is rooted in the Montgomery, Kessel and Herb Ellis schools, is the second signpost. Smoking single note lines, blues-based rejoinders and clean-toned melodies, which nod to those three guitar greats at different times, sing forth from Dechter's axe.
Familiar material is around every corner on this disc, but that doesn't mean it's run of the mill in execution. "Chega De Saudade" carries a certain degree of intensity in its being that's rarely encountered in other takes on this classic and "Come Rain Or Come Shine" is given a winning makeover. When Dechter and company put the classics aside, they prove equally capable of creating down-home feels and/or musical finery. "Together & Apart" is a mellow original from the leader which opens on some beautiful, cello-like arco work from Clayton, Josh Nelson's title track takes a little while to catch fire, but Dechter and Hendelman eventually fan the flames with some fine soloing, and Clayton's "Grease For Graham," powered by Hamilton's shuffling stick work, is a gas.
While some of the positive feedback for this recording will likely be focused on the established veterans, Dechter deserves his due. He may have the luxury of playing with the cream of the crop, but they don't carry him. Graham Dechter's playing is capable, confident and charismatic in every way.
Track Listing: Road Song; Be Deedle Dee Do; Chega De Saudade (No More Blues); Together & Apart; Takin' It There; Father; Grease For Graham; Hocus Pocus; Come Rain Or Come Shine; Amanda/Everytime We Say Goodbye.
Personnel: Graham Dechter: guitar; Tamir Hendelman: piano; John Clayton: bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums.