Juan Dhas: Catharsis

Ian Patterson By

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Juan Dhas: Catharsis
Guitarist Juan Dhas' debut recording, Embracing Clarity (Self Produced, 2014), was released just before he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Berklee College of Music. Returning to Bogotá in 2016, the then twenty- two-year-old immersed himself in the Colombian jazz scene. Just the following year, he obtained the post of Coordinator of the Guitar Department at EMMAT, a feeder school for Berklee. It's been an impressive trajectory, one that continues with Catharsis, which sees Dhas move from the quartet setting of his first recording to a more intimate, trio format.

The hallmarks of that debut recording—intricate arrangements, Dhas' clean-toned, melodically tilted virtuosity and a certain unrelenting intensity—are all present here. Upright bassist Kike Harker and drummer Ramón Berrocal are afforded plenty of room by the leader, with the former's cantering rhythms and the latter's singularly inventive lines providing a dynamic platform for Dhas from which to launch himself. The guitarist's solo on the opener, "Reverie," lays down an impressive marker, his fluidity matched by faultless articulation. Even in his most impassioned improvisational forays, however, as on "Deeper Spirit," Dhas always seems to be chasing melody rather than fireworks.

In that respect there is a passing resemblance to Pat Metheny in Dhas' approach, also hinted at in the pastoral lyricism that he trades in, notably on the understated intros to the balladic "Alma" and the more expansive "Showers Over A Silent Lake," and in his feathery comping in general. That said, his sound is very much his own and his soloing most impressive. Pick any one solo at random from the nine tracks and Dhas' improvisational flare, his deep well of ideas, coupled with a pronounced melodic sensibility, will all be abundantly clear.

Dhas' control at speed, notably on the bristling set-closer, "Sleep," is more typical of a classical virtuoso, but arguably his most seductive playing comes at more moderate tempi; on "Conscience" and "Beacons" the guitarist builds his solos steadily and surely, his emotional investment—not without adventure—keenly felt. A more sensitive side to the guitarist is heard on the unaccompanied ballad "If Only I Could." This softly scintillating solo performance is a timely break from the album's almost constant intertwining of three voices.

Guest drummer Jacobo Álvarez brings a slightly different rhythmic energy to "Story of Night," while Berrocal's brushes color "Beacons." Otherwise, dynamic variation is largely limited to the weight of Dhas' touch and the speed of his fingers, which makes for a slightly repetitive sonic soundscape overall. That shouldn't detract too much, however, from what is essentially a rewarding recording.

An exciting and emotionally engaging guitarist, Dhas is also a sensitive composer. Catharsis may only be his second recording as leader to date, but the signs already point to a bright future. A name to watch out for.

Track Listing

Reverie; Deeper Spirit; Alma; Showers over a Silent Lake; If Only I Could; Story of Night; Conscience; Beacons; Sleep.


Juan Dhas: guitar/compositions; Kike Harker: upright bass; Ramón Berrocal: drums; Jacobo Álvarez (special guest - Track 6): drums.

Album information

Title: Catharsis | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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