With the release of This Way, Acoustic Alchemy’s first album under Higher Octave/Narada Jazz’s association with Blue Note Records, guitarists Greg Carmichael and Miles Gilderdale celebrate a remarkable two decades since 1987’s Red Dust and Spanish Lace established the British ensemble as an ever evolving, powerhouse force in contemporary jazz.
Their thousands of fans around the world may be feeling nostalgic, but the duo--while keeping their trademark acoustic guitar synergy front and center--is clearly committed to forging ahead, following the laid back pop-soul vibe of American/English (2005) with their most aggressive and swinging, hard rocking and artfully jazzy disc to date. Complementing performances by familiar Acoustic Alchemy recording and touring members Terry Disley (piano), Snake Davis (sax), Fred White (keyboards and trumpet), Julian Crampton (bass) and Greg Grainger (drums) are special guest appearances by smooth jazz stars, trumpeter Rick Braun, saxman Jeff Kashiwa (who has toured with the band and appeared on 2001’s Aart) and keyboardist Neil Cowley, a member of jazz groove band (and Narada Jazz/Blue Note labelmates) Down To The Bone.
While Carmichael and Gilderdale composed the majority of the songs and produced several tracks at Gilderdale’s home facility 9 Miles High Studio in York, England, others were produced at various studios on Carmichael’s home turf of London and at Hansa House Studios in Bonn, Germany, where many of the band’s classics were recorded, produced and mixed over the years by longtime associate Klaus Genuit. In addition to Genuit’s three tracks, This Way includes six others produced and engineered by Richard Bull, who began working with AA on 2000’s The Beautiful Game. Two tracks, the trippy and sensual “Out of Nowhere” and the snappy, neo-soul driven “Now I’m On My Way” were mixed by legendary mixer Steve Hodge (Usher, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige).
Carmichael explains the very loose and spirited feeling of This Way as the result of a natural chemistry he’s developed with Gilderdale over the years since Gilderdale--formerly a backing guitarist with the band--became Carmichael’s full partner after the passing of founding member Nick Webb in 1998 and the release that year of Positive Thinking.
“What I love about This Way is that it’s got so much more playing on it than we’ve done before,” he says, “a lot more soloing and a really relaxed and organic vibe. I think this is less by design and more due to the fact that Miles and I are great friends who are very comfortable and laugh a lot together. When we got together at his place, either one of us would come up with a starting idea and we’d just let it grow naturally, then refine it and change it until we had a great song,” When I think of tracks like ‘Egg,’ which has a very British, straight ahead sound, I realize that this is really the jazziest record we’ve ever made, less pop jazz and with more extended solo sections. Our fans might be surprised to hear Miles play so much electric guitar, but in essence, that’s what he is by trade and what his focus was before he joined me as a partner on The Beautiful Game. So this album is the best of everything, not just my way, not just his way, but This Way.”