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Matthew Von Doran: In This Present Moment

John Kelman By

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While not exactly a new name on the music scene, guitarist Matthew Von Doran is relatively new to the jazz scene. With a career in pop that dates back to 1980, he had the opportunity to hone his jazz chops during a sixteen-year stint with the Don Miller Big Band, known primarily as the house band for two television shows, 'The Nanny' and 'Seinfeld.' But it has taken Von Doran nearly forty-four years to finally step out on his own with his first jazz release, In This Present Moment. It's been a long time coming, and well worth the wait. With a diverse program that still manages to maintain a clear focus, Von Doran is an artist with vision and an emerging style that makes him someone to watch.

The press sheet describes Von Doran as coming from the 'post-Metheny/post-Scofield' guitar landscape and that may be an apt description; but harmonically he leans a little more left of field, bringing to mind a slightly more mainstream John Abercrombie. What makes this release of original compositions especially noteworthy is that Von Doran is clearly his own man; there is no sense of compromise on a recording that is, nevertheless, completely engaging, with plenty of melodic hooks, solid grooves and fine playing.

Produced by Yellowjackets bassist Jimmy Haslip and engineered to perfection by Rich Breen, there is plenty to recommend. Like Metheny, Von Doran writes more extended compositions, avoiding the head-solo-head trap. On 'Balance,' a simple motif at the end is repeated over a changing harmonic backdrop to create a dynamic build. 'Critical Mass' swings vigorously, giving Von Doran, vibraphonist Roger Burn and saxophonist Bob Mintzer a chance to burn. Von Doran is a deft player, who understands what it means to develop a solo; there is always a firm sense of construction. On the mid-tempo 'Swang,' which teams Von Doran with organist Larry Goldings and drummer Terri Lynne Carrington, he demonstrates a blues sensibility that, along with the other tracks on the album, shows how broad his reach is. He explores the blues further on the New Orleans-inflected 'Measure Once.'

Von Doran opts for a warm hollow body sound, but is not averse to broadening the sonic palette with a fretless eleven-string classical guitar on the pulsing 'Trick'; on the closing ballad, 'Somewhere Before,' he contributes some beautiful classical guitar work over a rich yet spacious backdrop, courtesy of bassist Darek 'Oles' Oleskiewicz and Peter Erskine, who continues to demonstrate that he is one of the most purely musical drummers on the scene.

An auspicious d'but featuring an all-star cast of players, In This Present Moment establishes Matthew Von Doran as a guitarist of note. With formidable technique that never sacrifices musicality, Von Doran emerges as a composer and performer whose overall musical vision manages to challenge in an environment that is deceptively easy-going and accessible.

Visit Matthew Von Doran on the web.


Track Listing: Balance; Critical Mass; Swang; Measure Once; Z; Trick; Vanity Strikes; Cable; Ex Nihilo; Somewhere Before

Personnel: Matthew Von Doran (guitars), Bob Mintzer (saxophones), Bob Sheppard (saxophone), Roger Burn (vibraphone), Larry Goldings (organ), Charles Ewing (bass), James Genus (bass), Jimmy Haslip (bass), Darek ?Oles? Oleskiewicz (bass), Marcus Baylor (drums), Terri Lynne Carrington (drums), Peter Erskine (drums) Gary Novak (drums)

Title: In This Present Moment | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Thirsty Ear


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