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Guitarist Jack DeSalvo: While We Sleep & Quintrepid on Unseen Rain

Mark Sullivan By

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Guitarist/composer Jack DeSalvo has had a long, diverse career emphasizing fusion and free playing. His most visible gig was with Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society, but since co-founding the record label Unseen Rain Records he has played on or produced a wide variety of music. For example, his duet album Soldani Dieci Anni (Unseen Rain Records, 2016) with guitarist Dom Minasi contained both free improvisation and mainstream jazz playing, performed on various acoustic guitars. Two recent Unseen Rain releases showcase divergent aspects of his playing.

Jack DeSalvo & Tom Cabrera
While We Sleep
Unseen Rain Records
2020

While We Sleep reunites DeSalvo with drummer/percussionist Tom Cabrera for a fifth time (the first was 27 years ago). DeSalvo (who composed all but one track) employs overdubbing to create rich arrangements with his six acoustic instruments: classical and steel-string acoustic guitars, cello, mandola, banjo, and bass ukulele. The result is a genre-crossing hybrid: partly World Music (even New Age in places), partly jazz.

The title tune opens the set with a classical guitar duet which is soon joined by bass ukulele and percussion, mimicking a jazz quartet. DeSalvo is very much spotlighted as guitar soloist (here and elsewhere), while Cabrera's playing ranges from quiet accompaniment to boisterous rhythmic counterpoint. It's a lovely melody, too: the whole arrangement recalls Ralph Towner and Oregon.

"Pramantha" shifts the sound to steel string acoustic guitar and pizzicato cello, while "Flickering" pares things all the way down to a lyrical classical guitar solo. Cabrera's composition "Shamanic Verses" is a brief (but colorful) percussion solo with a ritual atmosphere. The banjo finally makes its appearance on "Labyrinth" as foil to the steel-string. "Walking Damp Ground" features an attractive, serpentine head, and closer "Nagna" ends the tune (and the album) with another brief classical guitar duet.

Quintrepid
Quintrepid
Unseen Rain Records
2020

Quintrepid is a contemporary jazz quintet made up of flugelhornist Matt Lambiase, guitarist Jack DeSalvo, pianist Chris Forbes, double-bassist Dmitry Ishenko and drummer Tom Cabrera (DeSalvo's duet partner on While We Sleep). The compositions are evenly split between DeSalvo and Forbes. DeSalvo is in jazz mode here, both as composer and guitarist. His "Seeing Through The Ground" opens the set in a contemplative mood. Beginning with just flugelhorn and archtop guitar, it recalls Kenny Wheeler. After an exciting guitar solo, the arrangement pares down to piano, bass and drums, offering Forbes and the rest of the rhythm section a showcase for their exciting interplay. Lambiase returns for a flugelhorn solo. Forbes' lyrical "February Thaw" features flugelhorn, with DeSalvo playing a classical guitar obbligato.

"Get Well" is a ballad which begins with the composer's solo piano introduction. The band shifts into a swing feel for the end of the piano solo into the flugelhorn solo, which continues through the guitar solo. A breakdown features Ishenko's double-bass, before the whole band returns for a dramatic reprise of the theme. There are no references to Indian music in "Madras," but it is a grooving platform for the whole band. "Because It Sees You" concludes with a jaunty hard bop sound which feels like Thelonious Monk. It offers more solo space for the bass, as well as a drum feature for Cabrere. A fine ending for a swinging collective with a fresh sound.

Tracks and Personnel

While We Sleep

Tracks:While We Sleep; Reservoir; Pramantha; Lost Words; Shamanic Verses; Flickering; Labyrinth; Walking Damp Ground; Nagna.

Personnel: Jack DeSalvo: classical and steel-string acoustic guitars, cello, mandola,banjo, bass ukulele; Tom Cabrera: drum set, doumbek, riq, frame drums, cajon, Muffintop Drum, percussion.

Quintrepid

Tracks: Seeing Through The Ground; February Thaw; All Are; Get Well; Madras; Because It Sees You.

Personnel: Matt Lambiase: flugelhorn; Jack DeSalvo: guitar; Chris Forbes: piano; Dmitry Ishenko: double-bass; Tom Cabrera: drums.

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