Neon is an engaging modern jazz album that showcases the diverse background and compositional approaches of Mike Clinco and his ensemble. While this record will fall into the category of modern jazz, the music on Neon draws from blues, rock, Latin and bebop as much as does from the post-bop idiom. In the hands of lesser musicians, blending these different styles might sound convoluted or incoherent, but Clinco and his quintet rise to the challenge and are able to bring out the subtleties of these genres while maintaining a unified ensemble sound throughout.
All of the tunes, with the exception of oneHenry Mancini's "Charade," with whom Clinco toured for 14 yearswere written and arranged by the highly-experienced Clinco. The material is thoughtfully arranged and never sounds like merely head charts, or vehicles to showcase the improvisational prowess of the band. Tunes like the opening "Bookends" and "Amalgam" contain some wonderful harmony lines between the guitar and horns during the melody sections, not to mention memorable solos by Clinco and saxophonist Bob Sheppard. One of the album's highlights comes with "X-Cue Says," where Clinco breaks out his distortion pedal, which not only adds a new level of texture to his guitar, but also provides inspiration for memorable solos by Sheppard and drummer Jimmy Branly.
Clinco's playing is solid throughout as both a soloist and accompanist. Hardly a tune, or sometimes a section of a tune, goes by without Clinco changing the tone or texture of the guitar in both the lead and/or comping. These changes of texture are furthered by his use of both electric and nylon string guitars. Clinco's haunting intro to "Charade" is a fine example of his nylon playing. Here, through the use of overdubbing, Clinco plays both the melody/solo and chords on his nylon string. While many times the overdubbing of two guitars can sound forced or uncreative, Clinco manages to convincingly portray the sound of two guitars without drawing attention to the fact that he is playing both.
Neon is an album as diverse as the musicians who recorded it. It highlights the variety of backgrounds that Clinco draws from in his playing and writing, as well as the world-class ensemble that he has chosen. Not a fully composed work, nor a blowing album, Neon is a welcomed mixture of composition and improvisation.
Bookends; Sonship; Neon; X Cue Says; Daystream; Amalgam; Beaten Paths; Charade; The Rest Will Follow.
Mike Clinco: guitar; Bob Sheppard: woodwinds; Walt Fowler: flugelhorn; Darek Oleszkiewicz: acoustic bass; Jimmy Johnson: electric bass; Jimmy Branly: drums, percussion.