An Embarrassment of Six String Riches.
September was a good month for new guitar music. Two fine jazz-crossover guitar discs hit my desk and both proved to be filled with quite fine and recommendable music. Juan Manuel and Jack Jezzro each turn in original collections of contemporary Latin jazz.
Rocket Science. Juan Manuel, NASA Engineer/Professional Musician/Renaissance Man, offers a contemporary acoustic and electric guitar jazz collection that is both smart and infectious. He is ably backed by saxophone, piano bass, drums and the ever present percussion section. This instrument mix provides a tight bedrock for his precision playing without being too busy, clouding his intelligent performance.
Manuel does not covet the spotlight. He provides his band ample room in which to move and solo. The disc opener “Liberation” is a warm up for “Conquista”, which rocks with a brilliant Latin backbeat and David Caceres’ preaching alto saxophone, accented by Manuel’s sinewy acoustic guitar. “Rosalyn” is a gentle guitar-soprano saxophone duo (with Caceres) ballad, while “La Vida Sin Blues” is a swinging, bluesy romp with fine piano (Buzz Smith) and saxophone (Caceres) performances. On this piece, trombonist Sal Gonzales, who plays with a millennial Teagarden flare, also joins Manuel. “Liberation Medley” is a pleasant and thoughtful solo acoustic reprise. Juan Manuel is a confident new talent deserving of broader recognition.
All in a Name. Jack Jezzro, noted classical and popular session double bassist, adds a Bossa Nova guitar disc to his already considerable Green Hill library. Brazilian Nights is decidedly more traditional than Manuel’s Liberation with Jezzro performing exclusively on a nylon string acoustic guitar. The performances and production are pristine. Jezzro and pianist Pat Coil have an uncanny empathic connection that makes this disc work all the better. Check out the title track and “Latin Storm” and you’ll see what I mean.
Track Listing (Liberation):Liberation; Asian Rainbow; Conquista; Rosalyn; La Vida Sin Blues; Izabelle; Romantic Journey; Liberation Medley. (Total Playing Time 70:03).
Personnel (Liberation):Juan Manuel: Acoustic and Electric Guitars; Marcus Dawson, Buzz Smith: Piano; David Caceres: Alto and Soprano Saxophones; Sal Gonzales: Trombone; Anthony Sapp, Rankin Peters: Bass; Chris Howland: Drums and Percussion; John Staehely: Guitar.
Track Listing (Brazilian Nights):Brazilian Nights; Fiesta Español; Señor Samba; Leblon; Paquetá, Isle of Love; Café Calypso; Latin Storm; Miranda; the Road to Ponta Porã; Ladrón De Corazon; the Beach at Ipanema; Midnight in Rio. (Total Playing Time 51:34).
Personnel (Brazilian Nights):Jack Jezzro: Acoustic Nylon String Guitar; Pat Coil: Keyboards; Craig Nelson: Acoustic and Electric Bass; Eric Darken: Percussion; Glen Caruba: Percussion; George Tidwell: Flugelhorn; Denis Solee: Flute.