I really do appreciate the easygoing sound of a well–played guitar — even though I couldn’t separate one guitarist from another if they walked up to me, shook hands and introduced themselves. On this new two–disc set from Concord we have not one but four well–played guitars in the capable hands of a quartet of recognized masters — Howard Alden and Jimmy Bruno (Full Circle, recorded in 1995) and Herb Ellis and Joe Pass (Jazz/Concord, from 1972). Full Circle refers to the fact that it was the last album produced by the late Carl Jefferson, who headed Concord Records for more than two decades, while Jazz/Concord was the first one he produced. Strange but true that each of them should have featured two guitars, bass and drums. We mentioned easygoing music, but that’s not always the case — the sparks fly on “Benedetto Blues,” “Something Latin for Patterson,” “Terrie’s Tune,” “Jaguar” and “Sixty Four Bars on Wilshire” (Alden/Bruno) and on “Good News Blues,” “Happiness Is the Concord Jazz Festival” and “Stuffy” (Ellis/Pass). But fast, slow or medium, each of these guitarists is always on top of his game. If there’s a drawback it is that Jazz/Concord was originally released on vinyl, a circumstance that accounts for its LP–like 37:10 running time (no alternates or bonus tracks are included). In fact, it was (in 1973) the first Jazz LP ever released by Concord Records, and as such has historic as well as musical importance. For Full Circle, Alden wrote “Benedetto’s Blues” and “Terrie’s Tune,” Bruno contributed “Something Latin for Patterson,” and the quartet interprets tunes by three other guitarists — Johnny Smith (“Jaguar”), Django Reinhardt (“Manoir de Mes Reves”) and Barney Kessel (“Sixty Four Bars on Wilshire”) — alongside four standards. Ellis wrote “Good News Blues” and “Bad News Blues” for Jazz/Concord while bassist Ray Brown was responsible for “Happiness Is the Concord Jazz Festival.” Rounding out that program are well–known tunes by Jerome Kern, Johnny Mandel, Fats Waller and Hoagy Carmichael. If you’d like to hear these guitarists sweating to earn their bread, tune in to “Jaguar” (Full Circle) or “Happiness” (Jazz/Concord). And for luminous and persuasive music–making of the highest order, sample any track at all.
Special Note:Jazz/Concord is a FREE bonus CD that comes with Full Circle.