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Transparency, Toronto violinist Lenny Solomon's first disc as a leader since 1995's The Gershwin Sessions, finds him helming the sextet of bassist Pat Collins, pianist Phil Dwyer, cellist Wendy Solomon, and the frequently paired Geoff Young and Barry Romberg on guitar and drums, respectively. The champagne-sparkle production of this standards-heavy set fits its title like a silver glovean attribute that should win Solomon much commercial airplay, if not abroad then at least in his homeland.
But while such pristine sound largely does justice to the beauty of Solomon's technique, its application to the rest of the band often approaches the antiseptic. On tracks like the sweet and playful reading of "Oh Susannah" and Young's "Leila's Waltz," one wishes there had been more of a live, "room" sound, rather than such tricked-up, radio-pandering gloss. (Reverb-heavy "rock" drums, anyone?)
Yet sometimes this album's immaculate ambience works rather well, particularly on the title track, a moody romp that features Young's fine Wes Montgomery/Grant Green-esque fretwork and Dwyer's twinkling, Oscar Peterson-style runs. Betraying Solomon's debt to the great Joe Venuti, the CD contains two compositions by the violin innovator, "Wild Dog" and "Black Satin," along with three tunes identified with Venuti and his era: "I Got Rhythm," "Sweet Georgia Brown," and Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You." All are superb, but "Wild Dog," which begins with a propulsive duet between Solomon and Dwyer, is perhaps Tranparency 's finest moment: after the two chase each other around like a caffeinated Tom and Jerry, Collins lays down a tough, walking line; Young then checks in with some cool blues before Solomon takes a poignant solo break andflash!they're off again at breakneck tempo (insert cloud of dust here). Anyone who thinks there's no life left in the classics should hear this.
While Solomon's approach isn't on the cutting edge of violinists like, say, Billy Bang or Leroy Jenkins, he clearly doesn't feel the need to compete in the modern jazz realm. Instead, he chooses to focus his awe-inspiring technique on the traditional repertoire, bringing his art to the masses instead of the already informed. And if smooth jazz radio were to pick up on this record, it would only be a much-needed improvement. But as impressive a chops session as Transparency is, one can't help but feel a raw album recorded live in a small club would really bring out the best in Solomon's music.
Track Listing: 1. Oh Susannah; 2. Leila's Waltz; 3. Hoe Down; 4. Transparency; 5. Don't Tell Me What To Do? 6. The
Reel Thing; 7. Sweet Georgia Brown; 8. Black Satin; 9. Calgary Stampede; 10. Wild Dog; 11. I Got
Rhythm; 12. The Nearness of You; 13. Paganini Blues.
Personnel: Lenny Solomon, violin; Pat Collins, bass; Geoff Young, guitar; Phil Dwyer, piano; Barry Romberg, drums; Wendy Solomon, cello.
The vocalist/guitarist of New York City blues-punk noisemakers The Chrome Cranks, Peter Aaron possesses an unceasing, obsessive thirst for musical knowledge. He now lives happily in upstate New York with his cats, Penelope and Kizzy.