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Perhaps no instrument was affected more by the advent of rock and roll than the guitar. Pioneers like Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix, while accomplished musicians in their own right, ushered in an era where earnest teenagers picked up the guitar because they felt that anyone could play it, and play it well. Everyone wanted to form a rock band and simply being able to pound out three chords became enough to write passable songs. Soon graffiti told us that Charlie Parker was no longer God; Clapton was. Arguably the guitar is now the most popular instrument today, but no one yearns to be Wes Montgomery over Kurt Cobain.
Fortunately there are still musicians out there who are dedicated to preserving the legacy of the guitar in jazz: clean melodic lines and craftsmanship instead of snarling power chords. One such fellow is Guillermo Bazzola, who hails from Argentina and is part of the strong Latin American jazz scene along with pianist Adrian Iaies. As such, a strong Latin subtext infuses the entire album. Shades of the dark, melancholy beauty of Wayne Shorter albums like Speak No Evil are also evident here; songs like “Sambeta” and “Cinco” are not just bedrocks for improvisation, but are strong, melodic tunes in their own right.
The lack of piano is the quartet gives the musicians plenty of space to stretch out and gives the album an airy, relaxed feel. Possessed with a seemingly effortless technique, Bazzola plays as if he was picking up grains of sand with tweezers; patiently, carefully, and precisely. He has chosen accomplished musicians to back him; Rodrigo Dominguez in particular is gifted at playing colorful, undulating melodies that glide over the changes.
Even with rock and roll, great music is played as if it truly comes from the soul; this is what separates the earnest dabblers from the skilled performers. Bazzola is definitely in the latter category. His excellent album is definitely worthy of attention from here in the States.
More information about Guillermo Bazzola can be found on his web page at http://www.geocities.com/ghbazzola.