It must be a daunting task as an artist to record your first session as a leader. Do you play it safe with standards that everyone treasures, or do you strike out boldly with originals that represent what you hope will be a unique artistic vision? Above all, how do you blend all the elements to create an album that people will actually want to listen to? Once you’ve got a few albums under your belt, you can strike forth with more confidence and risk, but since your debut recording is your first official statement, you better make sure you have something to say.
Mark Kleinhaut is a talented and proficient guitarist who has plenty to say, but, like many artists, tries to fit in everything that he can do within the confines of a single CD. The tunes here run the gamut from a beautiful bossa nova to an off-the-cuff free jazz workout, all of which are originals. Kleinhaut has indeed crafted some truly memorable melodies and exhibits some wonderful lyricism; however, on the up tempo numbers he has a habit of overplaying, as if he were determined to fit every note on the fretboard into every measure. Kleinhaut admits in the liner notes that he likes tunes that allow him to play fast and he is indeed very good at it, but speedy playing does not always result in soulful playing. Where Kleinhaut really shines is the slower compositions, which are given more room to breathe; ironically for a guy that can probably play anything, the simplest tunes turn out to be the best. Many of these songs twist and turn into unexpected corners and Kleinhaut is there to guide us through with graceful solos. They are truly the highlight of the album.
Overall, this is a promising debut which hints at possible greatness to come. Kleinhaut knows every trick in the book, but needs to employ them to advance the songs rather than as ornamentation. Kleinhaut may be a technical wizard, but next time he needs to cut back on the magic tricks.
Track Listing: Amphora, A Million Notes From Now, Suki's Web, Flowers and Flames, Illadroly, Miss Knows (it all), Horse From the North, Forty-Nine, Interlucent, Another Spring, We Never Knew.
Personnel: Mark Kleinhaut, guitars; Phil Verrill, drums; Josh Davis, acoustic bass; Thomas Snow, piano; John Hunter, acoustic bass; Annegret Baier, percussion.