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One of the best and most ambitious albums to appear last year was Tom Varner's Window Up Above, a wildly eclectic overview of the entire history of American music, from Civil War songs to Duke Ellington to Hank Williams. The guitarist on that release was Pete McCann, who brings the same broad range of musical interests and abilities to Parable, his debut recording as a leader.
Like most of us, McCann clearly listens to a lot of different kinds of music loud rock 'n' roll, avant jazz, funk, even country all of which find their way into his original compositions. McCann and his open-eared quintet of young New York players (saxophonists Peter Epstein and Bruce Huron, bassist Tim Lefebvre, and NYC's drummer-of the-moment Matt Wilson) get things off to a rousing start with the free-blowing, calypso-based "Grimlock." From there, it's on to the explosive jazz-rock of the title tune, which recalls Miles Davis'early electric experiments. Things heat up even more later on with the heavy-metal assault of "Victim Sweepstakes" and the free electric improv "Hoevenen."
Although he makes frequent (and effective) use of fuzz boxes and whammy pedals, McCann also has a softer, romantic side, as evidenced on the acoustic ballad "Mind Bender" and the bossa nova "Patricia," written for his wife. There are traces of Pat Metheney's warm guitar sound on "Open Gate," and more than a hint of Bill Frisell in the country-tinged "Hoedown" and the stone country "Sheriff Bob." And the looming presence of Ornette Coleman's harmolodic vision can be felt throughout. But its the breadth of McCann's musical conception and his undeniable chops in all these diverse areas that impresses most here and makes him a young guitarist to watch.
Pete McCann, electric and acoustic guitar; Peter Epstein, soprano, alto saxophone; Bruce Huron, tenor sax; Tim Lefebvre, acoustic and electric bass; Matt Wilson, drums, percussion.
Contact: Palmetto Records, 71 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011 (phone 800
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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