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Paul Bollenback: Invocation

Dan McClenaghan By

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Guitarist Paul Bollenback, who spent sixteen years backing organ great Joey DeFrancesco in concert and on CD, has some serious chops. Reviews of his previous CD release, Brightness of Being (Elephant Dreams, 2005), heaped praises on his technical prowess. On Invocation those chops are in fine form once again—the richly layered harmonies, the fluidly inventive intensity of his soloing, the accessible braininess of his compositions. Also apparent is Bollenback's finely honed, expansive Metheny-esque artistic vision.

Bollenback brings in trumpeter Randy Brecker this time around, as well as vocalist Chris McNulty, to help craft his artistry. On parts one and two of the title tune, a searching Coltrane-ian atmosphere prevails. Bollenback uses McNulty's soaring vocalese the way other artists employ synthesizers, creating glowing washes over a wandering guitar/trumpet trek. The disc's closer, "After the Rain," comes from the Coltrane pen, showcasing Brecker and Bollenback on an introspective gem of a performance.

The set opens with a Bollenback original, "Dancing Leaf," featuring some meaty chords from the guitarist, a tight succinct solo, and a fusion-like groove. "Alter Ego," a James Williams composition, features Bollenback comping sharp and clean behind a rolling Brecker solo, before he displays his amazing technique in another distinctive solo of his own.

Bollenback cites diverse influences—guitarists Carlos Santana, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, John McLaughlin, Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix, as well as pianists Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans, and sax men Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane—but he's shaped a voice very much his own, and is proving himself one of the most boldly creative guitarists in jazz.

Track Listing: Dancing Leaf; Alter Ego; How Deep is the Ocean; Everything Must Change; Invocation, Part 1; Invocation, Part 2; Emily; Songline; After the Rain.

Personnel: Paul Bollenback: guitar; Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Victor Lewis: drums; Ed Howard: bass; Chris McNulty: vocals.

Title: Invocation | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Elefant Dreams Records

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CD/LP/Track Review
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