The photos that adorn the cover and back panel of guitarist JC Stylles Exhilaration And Other States
make Stylles look like a cross between a '50s rockabilly musician and a Brian Setzer
wannabe, but his music has nothing to do with either one. The Australian-born and New York-based guitarist deals in burning organ trio swing, with a few ballads and some other seasonings thrown in for good measure, as he tackles standards and a few surprises from outside the jazz canon.
Both Stylles' biography and his music betray a fondness for George Benson
's playing, but not the Benson that sets off fusion fireworks or deals in smooth grooves. Stylles' style usually veers closer to the Benson that took the baton from Wes Montgomery
and ran with it.
While Stylles is clearly the star of this show, his trio mates are superb supporting players that help to drive this music along. Organist Pat Bianchi
brings his bright and cutting sound to bear on a large number of these pieces, but he also proves to be a sensitive accompanist, capable of dialing things down when the music calls for it ("Don't Explain"). His solos on the livelier material can be exciting and unpredictable, as demonstrated with some sprays of notes on "Tune For Roger," or straightforward in a pleasing manner. As per most organ group recordings, the drummerLawrence Leathersgets little space to solo, but Leathers' swinging drumming is the heartbeat of this music.
Stylles' choice of repertoire is as eclectic as can be, covering everybody from Cole Porter
and Billie Holiday
to Stevie Wonder
and R. Kelly, but he manages to find a common thread in most of the material. He lights up the faster numbers with his articulate single note lines and his solo trading with Bianchi, and he takes complete control on the ballads, which can be haunting ("Don't Explain") or heavenly ("I Want To Talk About You"). Stylles isn't afraid to detour into slick, R&B territory (R. Kelly's "It Seems Like You're Ready"), but the guitarist sounds best on material that moves at a sprinter's pace, as demonstrated by his searing solo work on Wayne Shorter
While the music on Exhilaration And Other States
may cover a wide range of emotions, it seems like everything that Stylles' delivers is capable of evoking a state of euphoria.
Knucklebean; I Can't Help It; I Want To Talk About You; Love For Sale; Don't Explain; Tune For Roger; Pinnochio; It Seems Like You're Ready; Samba Steps.
JC Stylles: guitar; Pat Bianchi: organ; Lawrence Leathers: drums.