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Album Review

Jonathan Kreisberg: Capturing Spirits - JKQ Live!


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Jonathan Kreisberg: Capturing Spirits - JKQ Live!
Throughout his over 30 year-spanning career, Jonathan Kreisberg has made a name for himself that reaches beyond his reputation as a dexterous bop-guitarist that frames him as a leading composer of the modern jazz variety. Like any song from the sacrosanct repertoire of standards, Kreisberg's compositions reveal memorable heads with a cleverly wrought spin to them. His melodies exude as much ease as they do emotional depth and reappear in altered forms throughout a song—disguised as imitations or within sequences. A characteristic guitar-tone in combination with his highly technical skillset further elevates the craft on display.

Kreisberg's own studio work with a bigger ensemble has been in hibernation since 2014's Quartet endeavor Wave Upon Wave (New For Now Music, 2014). In the meantime, he released the acclaimed duo-venture, Kreisberg meets Veras (New For Now Music, 2018), which saw him team up with the Brazilian nylon-string virtuoso Nelson Veras in a modest show of force. With the restraint of an acoustic nylon-string guitar as a counterpart, this duo-date demonstrated Kreisberg's subtle touch and keen ear for the simultaneousness of melodic and harmonic movements in counterpoint. His quartet, however, hasn't been on complete hiatus. Besides touring with organ legend Lonnie Smith, Kreisberg has been hard at work, touring Europe and the States with his quartet and presenting new material as well as fresh spins on old Kreisberg originals. Luckily, one of the dates of those tours—March 15th 2019 to be exact—was documented "on tape" at the Jazz Schmiede in Düsseldorf. Due to the busy tour schedule, the band forgot that the gig would be recorded. In consequence, the live set, released as Capturing Spirits, finds Kreisberg and his band at their most energetic and free. Unshackled from the pressure of "the perfect take," the guitarist and his band let the music flow as naturally as it comes and take risks, successfully.

"The Lift" opens the album with the familiar urgency of jumpy piano patterns and busy drum work, framing the guitar's presentation of the head. As on past standout hard-boppers by Kreisberg— opener "Twenty one" off of Shadowless (New For Now Music, 2011) or "The South of Everywhere" from 2007s Mel Bay Records album of the same name come to mind. The main theme is at the same time catchy yet intricately virtuoso. sextuplets and 16th notes make their way through a rhythmically multilayered 6/4, which drummer Colin Stranahan cunningly further subdivides at will. Kreisberg soon departs on a long solo with an overall dynamic that shifts between the sweet and slow to the fast and furious, though the latter prevails. His choice of scales proves of great harmonic understanding while the original arpeggios are once more evidence of his exceptional technique and vision.

The album's engaging sequencing alternates between original ballads— represented by the slow blues "Everything needs something" and the harmonically hovering "Know You Before"—and more upbeat bop-exhibitions, such as "Relativity" or, on the most traditional cut of the record, "Trust Fall." On "Everything Needs Something" Kreisberg is able to show off the depth of his guitar tone and switches on the octave pedal for the last quarter of the slow jam, while "Relativity" is structured around a couple note line on guitar that hangs in the air and is complemented by a firm counter phrase performed by all instruments in unison. Martin Bejerano takes the black and white keys for a ride through side steps and small harmonic shifts, creating much welcome tension throughout several passages on the record.

On "Know You Before" Kreisberg reveals his Pat Metheny influences, not only through the ambient sound-patterns and guitar tone introduced in the beginning, but also in the tunes Latin-tinged rhythmic constitution and the delicate main melody, which is the leading party in relation to the harmonic progression rather than the other way around. "Wild Animals We've Seen"—a Kreisberg original which first saw the light of day on Wave upon Wave—is treated to an extended interpretation which sees the quartet speeding it up quite a bit and going through the changes with vigor and thrust. Bejerano especially shines and is heavily supported by ferocious drumming and vibrant bass work. Johnny Green-penned "Body and Soul" closes the record on a quiet note— swaying the set to a sweet end. Even though one of the most recorded standards, Kreisberg and his band's emphatic take on the song proves fresh without rewriting the rules.

This album truly captures the Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet at the top of their game, doing what they do best in their most natural habitat: on stage. Covering a lot of ground—from traditional Jazz territory to more modern exercises— Capturing Spirits can be regarded as representative for today, bridging between post-bop and modern-day streams of the genre. What stands out most is how much the two languages have in common and how well this group of musicians is able to express and convey it. In that respect it doesn't get any better than this.

Track Listing

The Lift; Trust Fall; Everything Needs Something; Relativity; Know You Before; Wild Animals We've Seen; Body And Soul.


Jonathan Kreisberg: guitar; Martin Bejerano: piano; Matt Clohesy: bass; Colin Stanahan: drums.

Album information

Title: Capturing Spirits - JKQ Live! | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: New for Now Music

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