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"Smooth" is not a word most people like to associate with "jazz." Call it a failure of overzealous marketing. (They've changed terms by now anyway, so we're safe to use it as a compliment.) Guitarist Garrison Fewell has the maturity to appreciate the importance of connecting the dots: fitting ideas together and making them work. His smooth, easygoing style on City of Dreams masks a sophisticated understanding of the jazz vocabulary and ensemble sound. While he mostly steers clear of technical demonstrations, it's clear that he has the skills to get around on the guitar. And when he plays a note, even slurred with three others, you have the sense that he chose it carefully.
Fewell's quintet, assembled pretty much on-the-spot for this recording, have a remarkably intuitive sense of cohesion. They take these tunesfive Fewell originals and three standardsand glide effortlessly from heads to solos and back. The moods vary from the tender lyricism of "Soul Eyes," to the off-kilter Eastern sway of "Afternoon at the Souk," to the cocky strut of "Blues for No Reason." In every situation, pianist George Cables works with the guitarist to help define the group's harmony without crowding out the middle ground. Saxophonist Tino Tracanna delivers solos which craftily embody themes within a shifting cascade of sound. Drummer Jeff Williams can lay back and swing, maintain a delicate simmering bossa nova, or leap in and spur the group onward with a few well-placed hits. But this quintet recording is all about the group sound, connecting the dots, and allowing intuition to guide the flow. Smooth indeed. And that's a good thing.
Track Listing: City of Dreams; Girl with the Groovy Hips; Naima; Blues for No Reason; Afternoon at the Souk; Soul Eyes; Waltz for the Lonely One; Theme for Doris.
Personnel: Garrison Fewell: guitar; Tino Tracanna: soprano and tenor saxophone; George Cables: piano; Steve LaSpina: bass; Jeff Williams: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.