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John Basile: Heatin' Up


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: John Basile: Heatin' Up
John Basile's warm tone and impeccable articulation on Heatin' Up at first may trigger memories of the late, great Pat Martino, an iconic guitarist whom Basile obviously admires. But listen closer to the elegant phrasing, the confident use of space and "less is more" approach he applies to tunes like Cy Coleman's "See Saw," the oft-covered standard "For All We Know" or his own gorgeous ballad "Countenance," and another influence comes to mind. As Basile put it, "There's no stronger influence on me than Jim Hall." That Hall-like touch, where there is barely a sense of someone playing a plectrum instrument, is evident throughout these ten tracks on Heatin' Up (Springtime Jazz 010). But in terms of his vocal phrasing on an old school swinger like "Never Will I Marry," famously covered on the 1961 Capitol album, Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley) or on Alec Wilder's "Moon and Sand," (a 1941 tune previously recorded by everyone from Chet Baker to Kenny Burrell and even Basile himself, on his 1987 album Sunny Side Up, yet another major influence on Basile comes into play.

"I keep coming back to Sinatra," said the guitarist whose 1995 album Frankly Speaking: A Jazz Portrait Of Frank Sinatra featured such illustrious guests as guitarist John Abercrombie, saxophonist Michael Brecker and drummer Grady Tate. "There's still a wealth of material there for me, particularly in how he phrases melody across the bar. The tracks I listen to and keep coming back to year after year are Sinatra—the way he'll turn a phrase or extend something across the bar line. Emulating Sinatra on the guitar is a somewhat crazy idea, but as guitar players it's important that we have something that can move us to play "less" and subsequently just the essential notes and phrases. That's really a place where most guitarists want to go I think. And for me, Sinatra's influence helps me get there."

The Boston native and longtime New York resident has been plying his trade for decades since graduating in the mid '70s from New England Conservatory, where he studied with guitar great Barry Galbraith, who played with Claude Thornhill in the '40s, Stan Kenton in the '50s and Gil Evans in the '60s, while also doing extensive work as a studio musician. "Barry was an important influence, and what a gentleman! And what an incredible sight reader! He really inspired me to get my sight-reading together."

It was during his term at New England Conservatory, that Basile met and befriended another great guitarist and teacher, Jack Wilkins. "Jack was amazing. He could really play anything...any tune in any key," he said of his late friend and colleague. "And like Barry, he could sight-read anything. You hang out with him, you have to aspire to be better, always."

All of these influences come to fruition on Heatin' Up, Basile's 14th recording as a leader. Accompanied by veteran bassist David Finck, who played on Basile's Frankly Speaking and four other recordings by the guitarist, and drummer Carmen Intorre, who was in Pat Martino's last trio, Basile and his versatile rhythm tandem travel from ballads to bossas to pure burn with confidence and flair on this highly satisfying outing.

They open with Basile's bossa nova flavored "Under the Influence," which finds the leader shifting nimbly from fingerstyle on the opening bars to pick for some cleanly articulated single note lines. Catch the steady comping provided underneath by Basile as he solos in legato fashion on his warm-toned custom Tom Doyle guitar—his instrument of choice for the past 35 years. Kevin Winard adds a touch of hand percussion on this delicate number and drummer Intorre gets a solo taste at the tag.

Next up is "For All We Know," taken in a relaxed swing tempo. Intorre provides an old school pulse on the ride cymbal to fuel the jaunty proceedings as Basile solos with that relaxed, slightly behind-the-beat feel that may indeed have been influenced by Mr. Sinatra. Finck also turns in an outstanding example of melodic bass soloing on this timeless standard as Basile adds a flurry of nice chord melody playing near the end.

Their rendition of Neal Hefti's "Girl Talk" is strictly from Brazil with a passionate and funky solo from Basile. Percussionist Winard once again adds subtle touches of color on this buoyant number, and Finck delivers an impressive bass solo on top of Basile's steady samba groove.

Cy Coleman's engaging waltz, "See Saw," is underscored by Intorre's lightly swinging touch on brushes and Basile's delicate rendering of the melody. Finck's playing here is highly interactive throughout, like Scott LaFaro in the Bill Evans trio, and he also contributes another remarkably facile bass solo here. Alec Wilder's gorgeous ballad "Moon and Sand" is handled with similar sensitivity by the trio while their take on Frank Loesser's "Never Will I Marry" is swinging right out of the gate, fueled by Finck's insistent walking bass and Intorre's ride cymbal. Basile plays it free and easy here, soloing with impunity and even dropping in a Charlie Christian inspired riff at the 1:44 mark. The track completes with some slick chord melody playing in his exchanges with drummer Intorre on this straight ahead swinger.

Basile's sumptuous "Summer's Dawn" is an unhurried number marked by Intorre's gentle brushwork and the guitarist's sparse phrasing, which gives authority to every beautiful note he plays. A second understated guitar comps patiently, a la Freddie Green, as Basile takes his time in delivering the lush melody and some nice chord melody playing along the way. Dori Caymmi's buoyant bossa nova "Like a Lover" has Basile dipping into his Wes Montgomery bag for some warm octaves playing on this iconic melody. The Brazilian comping on nylon string guitar throughout helps ground the piece in authenticity. The touches of keyboard heard throughout is Basile himself, triggering keyboard sounds from his Godin MIDI guitar while even engaging in some call-and-response exchanges at the end.

"Tear It Down" is a lively romp out of the Wes Montgomery book, from his 1965 album Bumpin.' Everyone is on a strictly swinging protocol here, and both Basile and Finck deliver burning solos in keeping with the album title. They close on a poignant note with Basile's hymnlike "Countenance," a darkly beautiful number that concludes the proceedings like a prayer. While Basile may have carried all of his varied influences to this session, it's a testament to his own ingenuity, perseverance and individuality that Heatin' Up sounds as personal as it does.

Liner Notes copyright © 2024 Bill Milkowski.

Heatin' Up can be purchased here.

Bill Milkowski Contact Bill Milkowski at All About Jazz.
Bill Milkowski is the author of "Jaco: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Jaco Pastorius"

Track Listing

Under The Influence; For All We Know; Girl Talk; See Saw; Moon And Sand; Never Will I Marry; Summer's Dawn; Like A Lover; Tear It Down; Countenance.


John Basile
David Finck
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: Heatin' Up | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Stringtime Jazz



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