Larry Tamanini: Front & Center

Chris M. Slawecki BY

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Larry Tamanini: Front & Center
Philadelphia leaves such deep and wide fingerprints on guitarist Larry Tamanini's Front and Center that he could list the city in its credits.

Tamanini emerged on the Philadelphia jazz scene in the late 1990s, studying privately under Philly jazz guitar legends Dennis Sandole and Pat Martino, whose cerebral yet soulful sound sometimes echoes through Tamanini's own tones. He discovered more public education at Philadelphia's renowned Ortleib's Jazz Club, on the bandstand with Sid Simmons, Mickey Roker and other jazz masters.

"When it comes to the whole improvisational aspect of playing jazz," Tamanini once explained, "I just love it when a session comes together, and the interaction between musicians just flows." Front and Center plays like a lively conversation between his lead guitar and the surrounding trio, drummer John O'Reilly Jr with brothers Geoff (bass) and George (piano) Hazelrigg. In 2017, O'Reilly joined the Hazelrigg brothers for Songs We Like, self-produced piano trio interpretations of music by composers from Jimi Hendrix to Béla Bartók, and the rhythm section's familiarity with each other is evident throughout Front and Center.

"Front and Center" jumps off with a bright contemporary sound, which flatters Tamanini's sharp and skilled attack, crisp flurries of notes that sound like round and soft and blue teardrops, bringing to mind Kenny Burrell and the soulful Detroit guitar sound. When Tamanini drops out, bass and drums and piano seem to pass around the melody and rhythm with such abstract grace that the music seems to float above and between them.

The title of "Trust the Process" refers to a statement made by Sam Hinkie during his iconic tenure as the Philadelphia 76ers general manager, and which served for years as an organizational slogan for the team. Piano and guitar open this in harmony as bright as sunrise, and the pastoral feel of the middle trio section led by acoustic piano suggests the sound of pianist Lyle Mays stepping out on a Pat Metheny Group album.

But Front and Center shines most brightly with "In the Night," a blues stroll that sounds like Harold Arlen's classic "Blues in the Night" echoing down a dark and deserted midnight city street. Pianist George shades in blue harmony with neat brushstrokes behind and between the leader's blue moans. Each note of Tamanini's blues blossoms and bears fruit in your ear as if ripening its sound. This also brings to mind Kenny Burrell as well as George Benson, especially one of Benson's luscious CTI Records sets orchestrated by Don Sebesky for Creed Taylor.

In one final bow toward Philadelphia's jazz tradition, Tamanini dedicates Front and Center to the memory of Jeff Duperon, one of Philadelphia's biggest jazz proponents and radio personalities (WRTI 90.1 FM), who succumbed to cancer in June 2019.

Track Listing

Front and Center; 5 Minds; In The Night; Tempest; Trust The Process; The Determinator.


Larry Tamanini: guitar; George Hazelrigg: piano; Geoff Hazelrigg: bass; John O'Reilly Jr: guitar, slide.

Additional Instrumentation

Mixed by D.W. Fearn.

Album information

Title: Front & Center | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Outer Marker

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