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The guitarist Graham Dechter offers his first new album in almost a decade. Major Influence was recorded prior to the pandemic with the dream rhythm section of Dechter's earlier recordings: pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. In early fall 2021, the band can now begin to contemplate returning to touring.
While the unit's previous releases contained mostly titles from the American Songbook and jazz standards, this effort consists of compositions that were written and arranged almost entirely by Dechter. The one exception is the Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse number "Pure Imagination" on which Hamilton shared the arranging with Dechter.
The session opens with "Orange Coals," a rhythmic propulsive blues, as Dechter shows his quicksilver virtuosity straight out of the gate. The rhythm section hums along in full support with an expansive sound. The title track and the companion piece "Minor Influence" have less to do with meaning of "Influence" although it does come to the fore in the "Minor" number. It's more about the juxtaposition of the arranging keys for the two pieces. "Major" is written in a minor key and "Minor" is done in a major key. As these compositions play out, "Major" has a reflective feel and is sensitive to the musical dynamics, with Hendelmen especially revelatory. The touchstones in "Minor" are drummer Art Blakey and organist Larry Goldings as the texture of the music harkens back to the identifiable and thick sound of these players.
The previously noted Newley/Bricusse composition "Pure Imagination" was written for the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and since then has been covered by numerous jazz musicians including Bill Charlap, Monty Alexander and Bob James. Opening with some feather-like brush strokes from Hamilton, Hendelman and Dechter then engage in unison playing reminiscent of George Shearing's quintet. There is also a delightful brushes solo from Hamilton that is soft and luxuriant. The closing track is "Billie's Dilemma" and it is a finger-busting number for everyone. A fitting ending to a stellar recital.
Orange Coals; Reference; Major Influence; Moonithology; Minor Influence; Pure Imagination; Bent on Monk; Billy's Dilemma.