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A lot of professional guitar players are going to listen to this live album and determine they must abruptly change career paths. The playing is that good. There are truly only a handful of jazz players who can claim a unique voice on acoustic guitar. John Scofield once said that is why he doesn’t play it. He lamented that, with very few exceptions, all electric jazz guitarists sound the same when they unplug. Nat Janoff and Jake Schwartz are two very notable exceptions.
Uniqueness does not mean that influences don’t show. Both players have listened a lot. The influences are what you may expect for this format, McLaughlin, De Lucia, DiMeola, Coryell and Lagrène, to mention the key few. There are also some that you may not expect such as Montgomery, Django, Grisman and even Lester Flatt! It is the seamless melding of the styles and spirits these players created, displayed at just the right moments, which blend into the unique voices offered by Janoff and Schwartz. Anyone interested in guitar history would do well to observe how these players utilize the many tools given to them by their predecessors.
As if they need to show their acoustic bona fides, Janoff and Schwartz cover the obligatory “Spain” and DiMeola’s “Mediterranean Sundance” with precision and feeling. Their own compositions are quite encompassing and impressive. Schwartz's pieces seem to be a bit more cerebral, while Janoff's tend to be more jazz/blues-oriented. But, they jump into each other’s bags at high break speed so often that such categorization is probably off the mark, if not downright unfair. Schwartz’s “Jazzgrass” is probably the best example of this. The two players trade with such energy, speed and a feeling of joy that you believe they have become part of the same organism. To talk of individual style differences, even when they clearly exist, at such moments becomes irrelevant anyway.
This is uplifting and exciting music of the new acoustic guitar tradition, captured flawlessly before a very lucky and appreciative club crowd. While other guitarists may be forced to flee the business or hide in a closet somewhere until it is safe to come out, Janoff and Schwartz should make sure this particular collaboration continues to see the light of day. They are in a position to create a tradition all their own.