Andrew Cheshire's last album, Pavane Pour Une Infante Difunte , was one of the finest guitar trio CDs of the past twelve months. With The Four Ages Of Bob , Cheshire has expanded the trio into a quintet and recorded another outstanding record. This time the Philadelphia-based guitarist chronicles the progress of Bob, a sort of archetypal American optimistic free spirit, from the 1960s through an anger-drenched 1980s, and up to his incarnation as a 1990s computer geek who ultimately disappears into a parallel universe called Lum. If the subtext sounds overly allegorical or even a bit strange, don't worry. The music is direct and very, very good.
The elements of Cheshire's guitar style remain: the clean tone, the darting triplet figures, the metric modulations, in which he turns the beat around, the bracing riff figures. Cheshire places a classic jazz guitar sound in a crisp post bop setting that makes it sound utterly refreshing. Hear how his rubato solo on "Bob Takes A Bad Trip" builds coiled tension, while on "Bob Enters The Land Of Lum," he floats gentle lines over the rhythm section's swaying waltz.
And the entire quintet delivers the goods, maintaining a high level of interplay as well as solid swing. Bassist Joe Michaels and drummer Adam Stranburg have further refined their approach; they work hand-in-glove. The momentum they work up on the swinging "Bob Buys A Pet Rock" is heady indeed. Pianist Jessie Green is a real find, an aggressive soloist who, once he works his way fully free of his influences, could be a major musician. Likewise, saxophonist Lance Koonah has much to say. To my ears, he's searching for his own voice, using elements drawn from Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, and possibly Clifford Jordan. At times, Koonah's note choices seem hesitant, but he's always thoughtful and always searching. Still, The Four Ages Of Bob is Andrew Cheshire music, that is, consistently rewarding jazz.
Track Listing: Bob Attends A Love-In, Bob Takes A Bad Trip, Bob Discovers Scientology, Bob Buys A Pet Rock, Bob Meets A Beautiful Girl, Bob Joins A Garage Band, Bob Encounters A Moment Of Truth, Bob Enters The Land Of Lum.
Personnel: Andrew Cheshire, guitar; Lance Koonah, tenor sax; Jessie Green, piano; Joe Michaels, bass; Adam Stranburg, drums.