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Paul Bollenback: Brightness of Being

Dan McClenaghan By

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You have to love it when a first-rate jazz guitarist opens up a set with a barnburner, as Paul Bollenback does on his sixth release as a leader, Brightness of Being. The song is "Together," and he and tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas work some clean-toned heat together, keeping it sharp and tight in front of a flexible rhythm.

Bollenback is best known for his association with organ legend Joey De Francesco, a sixteen-year, fourteen-album musical relationship. The guitarist has also played with Stanley Turrentine, Gary Bartz, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Geoffrey Keezer, James Moody, Paul Bley and many more.

The Ray Charles vehicle "Unchain My Heart" gets a gorgeous reharmonization by Bollenback and features him joined by David "Fathead" Newman on tenor saxophone, who adds a big dose of soul to the sound. Vocalist Chris McNulty sweetens the sound with her honey-toned vocalese on three tunes; she sings the lyrics on Neil Young's "Philadelphia."

Bollenback cites a who's who of guitar legend and jazz influences—Wes Montgomery, John McLaughlin, George Benson; Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Bill Evans—but he has shaped a distinctive sound of his own, a mix of huge technical prowess, groove, control and daring. The covers delve into an array of styles: Ray Charles ("Unchain My Heart," "You Don't Know Me"); Puccini ("Dark Eyes of Floria Tosca, parts 1-3"); Neil Young (Philadelphia"); and Stevie Wonder ("Don't You Worry "Bout a Thing"). Bollenbeck also adds four of his own compositions to yield a set that holds a straight-through cohesion.

Brightness of Being showcases an immensely talented guitarist, composer and arranger.

Track Listing: Together; Unchain My Heart; Don't You Worry About a Thing; Breathe; You Don't Know Me; 7 a.m. Special; El Desierto; Dark Eyes of Floria Tosca Part 1-3; Philadelphia; Siberian Passages.

Personnel: Paul Bollenback: guitar; David "Fathead" Newman: tenor saxophone; Tim Garland: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Gary Thomas: tenor saxophone; James Genus: bass; Terri-Lyne Carrington: drums; Ari Hoenig: drums; Chris McNulty: vocals.

Title: Brightness of Being | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Elefant Dreams Records

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