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Steven Kirby: North Light

Dan McClenaghan By

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Boston-based, Berklee-bred guitarist Steven Kirby decided to branch out on North Light, the follow-up to his '98 offering, Point of Balance. The earlier CD was a solidly cohesive affair; but on his second outing, he mixes things up a bit, using four different recording units to complete the CD.

This approach can be a potential minefield. The utilization of different bands can create a loss of cohesiveness—an all important component of any music CD. Guitarist Kirby solves this probem with the continuity of his compositions—eight Michael Brecker-inspired, Pat Metheny tinctured post-bop jewels.

The set opens with what might be the highlight (but there's a lot of competition for that slot here): the crisp, jaunty swinger, "Line Game," which features the "highest profile" line-up on the disc: Chris Potter on sax; Bruce Barth, piano; Scott Colley, bass; and Matt Wilson, drums. These guys have high profiles—and fantastic recent releases in the cases of Wilson and Potter—for a reason. Talent. "Line Game" is a tight, in-the-groove sizzle; with pianist Barth doing a counterpoint, an almost Cecil Taylor free flung approach, a juxtaposition that glues the song together. And speaking of glue, check out Mark Shilansky's organ work on the funky "Ambiguity Tolerance". He, more than most organists, seems to bite his notes off, creating less of an aural wash, a more pungent backing that gives a nice sting to the sound, while leader Kirby puts a little grint into his normally free flowing lines, and some very sharp, tricky sax/guitar unison work. And "Paradigm Shift" evokes memories of Chick Corea's Electric Band of the late'80s/early '90s, full of spark and energy and forward momentum.

An exciting set of sounds, a mixing a styles held together by Steven Kirby's fluid guitar work and focused, forward-thinking musical vision.

www.stevenkirby.com

Track Listing: Line Game, New Song, Autumn Song, North Light, Refractions, Things As They Are, Paradigm Shift, Ambiguity Tolerance, Five For All, When You wish Upon A Star.

Personnel: Steven Kirby, guitar; Chris Potter, Bill Vint, saxes; Bruce Barth, Mark Shilansky, Laszlo Gardoni, keyboards; Scott Colley, Keela Kaumeheiwa, Jeffrey Wilfong, bass; Matt Wilson, Mark Connors, drums; Tony D'Aveny, trumpet and flugelhorn

Title: North Light | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: a/l/l


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