12

John McLean: Parts Unknown

Friedrich Kunzmann By

Sign in to view read count
This inventive Chicago Quartet finds Kurt Elling's long time backing team comprised of guitarist John McLean and bassist Clark Sommers pushing into original sonic adventures with fresh modern twists. The band's debut outing for Origin Records also features drummer Xavier Breaker and vibes veteran Joe Locke whose tone and style accompanies and interacts perfectly with John McLean's subtle but poignant Guitar lines.

Locke's modernistic "Blondie Roundabout" launches this long player to some speed with a very approachable guitar driven melody followed by short rhythmical interplays arranged in melodic unison. McLean's guitar tone combined with Breakers alternating syncopation and fills create a unique groove, that spreads over most of the following seven tracks. McLean's "Labor Day," similar in compositional structure, features beautiful soloing by both John McLean and Joe Locke. While keeping it short they find most complementary lines.

In "Time Window" the quartet paces it down a little. Introduced by atmospheric electric guitar layering John McLean then takes the acoustic guitar at hand, producing a soft melody. Much like most compositions on this album, Clark Sommers concentrates on creating a meaningful melody with a rather simple harmonic context, giving every member the time and space they need to say what has to be said.

The title track and "All Alone" suggest the group's most modern and most funky approach. Driven by Breakers intense drumming (All Alone sounding much like drum n bass ground work) a wider spectrum is attained by the layering of acoustic and electric guitar in some parts, leading to an even bigger dynamic range. Quieting it down again in order to catch a breath in between those rocking outbursts "Safe and Sound (At the Edge of the Milky Way)" and "Farther From" return to a more acoustic setting where John McLean completely refrains from using the electric guitar.

Closing the album with an acoustic groove McLean's "Last Call" is the most classical jazz composition one would find on this album though at the same time not completely typical in melodic and harmonic construction. At a running time of just under six minutes every member gets one last moment to shine in a mellow and bluesy setting, at times reminiscent of Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years."

Not only do the originality of the compositions and the flawless and unique performance of the group members make this record a special one, but the production (producer and engineer Vijay Tellis Nayak) emphasizes this perfection by adding more dynamic layers and, rarely but timely, quirky effects. For those who only knew them as sidemen: John McLean and Clark Sommers do have distinct voices of their own and they are ones to be heard.

Track Listing

Blondie Roundabout; Labor Day; Time Window; Parts Unknown; Safe And Sound (At The Edge Of The Milky Way); All Alone; Farther From That; Last Call.

Personnel

John McLean: guitar; Clark Sommers: bass; Joe Locke: vibraphone; Xavier Breaker: drums.

Album information

Title: Parts Unknown | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Origin Records

Tags

Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and through our retail affiliations you'll support us in the process.

MUSICSTACK
Rare vinyl LPs and CDs from over 1,000 independent sellers
AMAZON
CDs, Vinyl, Blu-Ray DVDS, Prime membership, Alexa, SONOS and more
HD TRACKS
Specializing in high resolution and CD-quality downloads
CD UNIVERSE
Specializing in music, movies and video games
REVERB
Marketplace for new, used, and vintage instruments and gear

More

Read #BLACKLIVESMATTER
#BLACKLIVESMATTER
The Ogún Meji Duo featuring Dr. Mark Lomax, II and Edwin Bayard
Read Africa Today
Africa Today
Etuk Ubong
Read Stillefelt
Stillefelt
Stillefelt
Read Act Three
Act Three
John Hart
Read First EP
First EP
True East
Read Danzón Cubano
Danzón Cubano
Marialy Pacheco
Read Occupational Hazard
Occupational Hazard
Jacek Kochan & musiConspiracy