It's rarely been the norm to talk about guitarist Wayne Krantz's singing, as the focus of his music has long been instrumental. That began to change with the sizzling Krantz, Carlock, Lefebvre (Abstract Logix, 2009), where Krantz sang on a third of the tracks. On Howie 61 Krantz sings on eight of the ten numbers. The notable evolution in Krantz' songwritingwhich fuses composition and improvisationis also heard in his increasingly melodic guitar playing. "I don't wanna follow a King I wanna be one" he sings on the tongue-in-cheek "Can't Stand to Rock," a reminder that Krantz has always followed his own muse, sounding quite unlike any other guitarist in the process.
Krantz turns his back on his favored trio format, instead employing various combinations of 18 musicians, ranging in size and intensity from from duo to quintet. The music covers wide sonic territory, from grungy, improvisation-laced rock and stripped down sonic experimentation, to introspectiveand near-spoken wordvignettes and sophisticated pop-rock. Bassist James Genus and drummer Keith Carlock form a deeply grooving rhythm section on an instrumental version of Ice Cube's "Check Yo Self." This is the most freely improvised of the tracks and features a great Krantz solo that's as economical as it is unpredictable. The other instrumental, "beLlsnamed after Krantz's chiming ring modulatorpits the guitarist with drummer Anton Fig in a short but atmospheric exchange.
The subtly churning grooves of the title track and the seductive "How the West was Left" bookend the CD and provide the best examples of Krantz's lyrical and melodic strengths. They also share obvious commercial-airwaves potential. On "How the West was Left," Paul Stacey's slide guitar and Andreas Andersson vocals bring harmonic and melodic depth to this perfect slice of pop-rock, on which Krantz leaves a simply beautiful impression on guitar. There's more direct punch to "The Bad Guys"with a typically snarly little Krantz soloand the infectious punk rocker "U Strip It," featuring a ripping solo from saxophonist David Binney. The brevity of the soloing throughout Howie 61 lends greater impact, and the same could be said of the compositions themselves.
"Son of a Scientist" and "Can't Stand to Rock" feature a dynamite rhythm team of bass sensation Tal Wilkenfeld and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and the songs nestle nicely back-to-back in the middle of the collection. "I'd like to Thank my Body" is a quirky little ode of gratitude, whilst "I'm Afraid that I'm Dead," with Krantz on piano (the only track he's ever recorded without his guitar), features Yasushi Miura's arresting electronic textures, providing oddly empathetic support for the lyrics' morose introspection.
In spite of the diverse character of the songs there's a strong cohesive thread running throughout and, at under 40 minutes, Howie 61 lends itself perfectly to unbrokennot to mention repeatedlistening. Singing, the studio, and working with a bunch of different musicians seem to suit Krantz very well. The more difficult he is to pin down musically, the better the guitarist seems to get.
Howie 61; The Bad Guys; Check Yo Self; I'm Afraid That I'm Dead; Son of a Scientist; Can't Stand to Rock; I'd Like to Thank My Body; U Strip It; beLls; How the West Was Left.
Wayne Krantz: guitars (1-3, 5-10), vocals (1, 2, 4-8, 10), piano (4), ring modulator (9); Henry Hey: piano (1); Owen Biddle: bass (1); Nate Wood: drums (1);John Beasley: piano (2, 5, 6, 8, 10); John Patitucci: bass (2, 8); Charlie Drayton: drums (2, 8); James Genus: bass (3); Keith Carlock: drums (3); Yasushi Miura: sonics (4); Tal Wilkenfeld: bass (5, 6); Vinnie Colaiuta: drums (5, 6); Gabriela Anders: vocals (5, 7, 10); Kenny Wollesen: drums (7); David Binney: saxophone (8); Anton Fig: drums (9); Paul Stacey: slide guitar (10); Pino Palladino: bass (10); Jeremy Stacey: drums (10).
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