Phil Sargent's A New Day is enjoyable for a number of reasons. In addition to shedding light on a highly accomplished guitarist/composer with a singular concept, it manages to avoid the pitfalls of trying to emulate the usual icons in the jazz guitar lexicon. With a modernist bent that encompasses improvisation and intelligent charts, the Boston-based Sargent delivers the goods and then some, along with a few surprises.
Aubrey Johnson's beautiful voice is one pleasant inclusion. Augmented by a more-than-capable rhythm section, her wordless vocals add panache and atmosphere, buoyed by the atmospheric compositions, and act as an effective lead instrument that superbly matches Sargent's exquisite playing. Their unison voices soar in harmony on the title track, a labyrinthine piece that also contains some progressive rock fireworks. Her supple creations are elegant in "Kelita," marked by its picturesque folksy melody, and where bassist Greg Loughman delivers a muscular solo.
With demonstrative technique, Sargent is cognizant of the tradition but thinks outside of the box. A guitarist in the vein of Ben Monder, with whom he studied, he demonstrates an impressive ability to move between avant-gardism in "Gridlock" and hardcore head-banging distortion in "Powerplay," where he obliterates his axe like a punk rock star.
The amicable "Nobody Nothing" digresses a bit from the other tracks; a fine conclusion, albeit not quite as edged as the rest of the set. But that's a minor quibble. More slashing might have been nice, depending on individual preference, but its absence doesn't, in the least, detract from this fine release.
Track Listing: A New Day; Kelita; 8/31; Light; Gridlock; Powerplay; Nobody Nothing.
Personnel: Phil Sargent: guitars; Aubrey Johnson: voice; John Funkhouser: piano (1); Brian Friedland: piano, organ (3); Greg Loughman: bass; Mike Connors: drums.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.