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Jamie Ruben: Groove-O-Ly-O-Scene

Jerry D'Souza By

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If at first you don't succeed, travel. Guitarist Jamie Ruben did just that when he failed to get much recognition in North America. Leaving his native Toronto, Canada, he made his way to the East playing and living in several cities before settling in for a lengthy spell in Chian Mai, Thailand, recording and releasing this first CD on his return home.

Ruben's approach is clean, melodic and laidback. He lets the music flow gently, and while his harmony has its own sense of development, he eschews bite and snap. The constantly mellow mood could well have been shaped to advantage with some sizzle or imbued with characteristics of the music from the countries in which he lived; some of the tunes have names that relate to these places, but they don't really get into the groove.

One of the more pleasing tunes, "Pai Crowd" jumps out with a strong melody, Ruben carving it open nicely, his notes beautifully modulating while his chords provide the bed for trumpeter Dafydd Hughes. Keyboardist Steve Zsirai and drummer Ryan Granville-Martin find deeper ground and add sinew before Ruben's final return to juicy promulgation.

The atmospheric "Kwan-Teen"—Ruben using his bass strings and making judicious use of space—is all too short, leading into the rather sprightly "Pennapa," where bent guitar notes and a mellifluous trumpet mark the progression. It makes for a nice change and, when Ruben uses similar technique on "Monsieur Sildey," the move is delightful enough. But once again it's a song that coasts instead of setting up indelible signposts.

Ruben had a vision for his music; hopefully he will expand on it in future, as he clearly has the talent.

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