Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.


Nat Janoff: Looking Through


Sign in to view read count
New Jersey jazz guitarist Nat Janoff leads a strong trio on the 1999 record Looking Through, which merits a look back in time. Janoff has played with Michael Brecker and Kenny Burrell. On this self-released debut, he leads a trio with the ace rhythm section of bassist Matthew Garrison and drummer Gene Lake through seven original tunes. Garrison's credits include John McLaughlin's Heart of Things band and sessions with David Fiuczynski and Steve Coleman; Gene Lake has played with Steve Coleman and Five Elements and David Fiuczynski's Screaming Headless Torsos.

The title track opens the record with a funky head played with a natural hollowbody jazz guitar sound; but after only one repetition, Janoff switches to a strident lead sound and tears into a 90 second guitar solo full of flashy speed picking. Garrison adds a bass solo, and his few bursts of speed equal Janoff's skill while more tastefully supporting the music. "Room with a View," with its somber head, offers smooth fretless bass chords and more blasts of speedy picking in the clean guitar tone, before Lake adds a crisp drum break that builds the tension back to a recapitulation. The flashy guitar in "Horizon" rings far more appropriate, applied in short bursts around more traditional jazz guitar lead lines like octaves and snappy chord variations. Garrison and Lake particularly shine here, with bass chords and light drum rolls providing an airy foundation.

"Home" marks the pinnacle of the record in a soaring, half-time head with quick ride cymbal work and an uplifting guitar melody. The bass takes the melody line in one section over guitar chords, but a low mixed guitar overdub unnecessarily doubles the bass melody. Lake cracks out a fat half-time in the minor key solo section under a snappy clean tone guitar lead. "Three Sunsets," a guitar duet in a light swing, subdues the mood by removing the all-star rhythm section, but more heavy-handed soloing drowns the lighter feel. "Orange" and "Spiral" speed up the pace after the duet with more ace rhythm work, like the offbeat ride cymbal in the head of "Spiral," and more needlessly fast speed picking in the overdubbed solo. Janoff and Garrison exchange bursts of fast notes in "Orange," but Lake outclasses them both with pulsing drum breaks.

Looking Through sounds crisply professional in the rolling fretless bass, crisp drums, and woody clean guitar, a high achievement for an independent release. Janoff's composing leaves a few memorable moments, including the funky head of the title track and the soaring melody of "Home," but he rarely develops these beyond vehicles for soloing. His repeated blurs of flashy speed picking wash over the music with all the subtlety of a fire hose.

Janoff oddly juxtaposes contemporary and classic influences on Looking Through. He plays classic jazz style chordings and heads with a clean, hollowbody rhythm guitar sound, but he stomps on a raspy lead tone and rips out gaudy speed metal arpeggios in his solos. He leads a traditional format jazz guitar trio, but he overdubs guitar solos and doubling tracks of some of the bass melodies, instead of tracking everything live to showcase the interaction among the musicians. Janoff lists contemporary and classic influences, including John McLaughlin and "the technical rock guitar masters of the '80s." His playing suggests that he has mastered the technical feats of some of these players, but far less of, for example, McLaughlin's subtlety in wielding his ability and his genius in composing. Until Janoff further develops both of those skills, he'll be an odd contradiction in jazz guitarist terms and just another fast player.


Track Listing: 1. Looking Through 2. Room with a View 3. Horizon 4. Home 5. Three Sunsets 6. Orange 7. Spiral

Personnel: Nat Janoff: guitar, Matthew Garrison: bass, Gene Lake: drums.

Title: Looking Through | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Independent Records


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read D'Agala CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Bound CD/LP/Track Review Not Bound
by Don Phipps
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House CD/LP/Track Review Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Journey to a New World CD/LP/Track Review Journey to a New World
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 21, 2018
Read "Vintage Christmas Trio" CD/LP/Track Review Vintage Christmas Trio
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 3, 2017
Read "Killing Bugs" CD/LP/Track Review Killing Bugs
by Kevin Press
Published: November 20, 2017
Read "Tenderly featuring Gilad Hekselman" CD/LP/Track Review Tenderly featuring Gilad Hekselman
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: December 30, 2017
Read "Marseille" CD/LP/Track Review Marseille
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 26, 2017
Read "Milestones" CD/LP/Track Review Milestones
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 31, 2017
Read "Avant-Garde Party Music" CD/LP/Track Review Avant-Garde Party Music
by John Sharpe
Published: January 1, 2018