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An observation we might make about jazz albums today, as opposed to the days of vinyl, is that there are a lot more first-rate musicians recording today, for a welter of small, independent CD labels. This means that there is a lot more available, high-quality jazz product today, if the astute listener knows where to look. Which brings us to Panoramic, the latest CD by guitarist Steve Cardenas.
If an album as good as Panoramic had been released thirty years ago, it would have stood out as an exceptional record, a must-buy. It is no disrespect to the gifted Cardenas or this fine CD to state that it is one of any number of first-rate albums to grace the shelves in 2004.
This is a swinging, often intimate quartet session featuring Cardenas' flowing fretwork, the hefty tenor of Tony Malaby, and a swift-thinking, very together rhythm section. The program consists of seven Cardenas originals, a funk treatment of Bird's "Visa," and an outstanding rendition of Monk's "Introspection." Cardenas' tunes are intricate enough to challenge the improviser, and catchy enough to stay in the listener's ear. "Sights" and "Isso E Para Dizer," in particular, have the potential to become jazz standards if enough people hear them.
Steve Cardenas delivers on every solo, particularly on his brilliant "Introspection" improvisation. Malaby, too, is a most satisfying soloist, who uses his mastery of tonal nuance to integrate subtle turns of sound into long, swinging lines.
Panoramic is precisely where the jazz mainstream is, and should be. In an environment filled with top-shelf music, the astute listener is advised to pay attention to Panoramic.
Track Listing: Visa, Sights, Isso E Para Dizer, Just Like I Pictured It, Walkup, Oriel, Introspection, D. Marie, Salsita.
Personnel: Steve Cardenas, guitar; Tony Malaby, tenor saxophone; Larry Grenadier, bass; Kenny Wolleson, drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.