Magic , Pennsylvania-based guitarist Andrew Cheshire's fifth CD as a leader, is a highly interactive, improvizational affair. Operating with just bass and drums in two different personnel combinations, the sound is, as you would expect, open and sparse. The bassists and drummers also chart their own improvizational course throughout most of the tunes, so the outing is pretty open-ended and free, although the underlying meter and chord structure of each tune usually remains evident.
The first half of the program is comprised of all Cheshire originals and features long-established pros in bassist Ron McClure and drummer Billy Hart. Both men prove their artistry in the confident way they navigate this expansive terrain; Hart, relaxed and never overpowering, plays with subtly and nuance, while McClure compliments and supports Cheshire's guitar and milks the charts for all they're worth to push him to explore in many directions. The back half, performed live for a radio broadcast with Dominic Duval on bass and Jay Rosen on drums, is even freer. "Song" is 1:38 of random sounds from the bass and drums. "Blues from Mars," credited to Cheshire, opens with Cheshire playing solo, later joined by Duval and Rosen. The disc concludes with three standards, "Invitation," "Nefertiti," and "Afro Blue," but aside from occasional hints at the melodies, these too are very open-ended and, at times, meandering. This trio, while being boldly creative, doesn't display quite the cohesion and interactivity of the Cheshire-McClure-Hart combo.
Throughout the disc, Andrew Cheshire displays good technical command as well as a uniquely personal approach to his instrument. He seems to never run out of new ideas to spin out. Those who enjoy loose improvization will enjoy this; those who prefer more melody and structure, at least initially as a jumping-off point, should probably pass. (Joule 04)
Magic; Ballad; To Love Again; A. Z. Lives; Dream; Song; Blues on Mars; Invitation; Nefertiti; Afro Blue. (71:18)
Andrew Cheshire - guitar. On tracks 1-5: Ron McClure - bass; Billy Hart - drums. On tracks 6-10: Dominic Duval - bass; Jay Rosen - drums.