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Jay Azzolina proves there are second acts in American culture. The onetime guitarist for Sypro Gyra (read on it gets better), Jeff Beal, Herbie Mann, Chuck Mangione, and Fred Hersch cast-off his fusion demons for an acoustic-accompanied outing. Sure I had my doubts, but as soon as the opener, “Ben Hur, Ben Him,” begins he’s all hollow-body guitar swing. From Wes Montgomery to John Scofield’s sound, Azzolina plots a course to erase any thoughts of fusion.
He gets plenty of help from friends. John Patitucci, sporting a huge acoustic bass sound, is Azzolina’s closest ally. Patitucci’s own renaissance of late has been noteworthy. His recent discs have shown a mature presence both in playing and composition. Then there’s Chris Potter, a modern day tenor titan that recently starred in Dave Holland’s new quintet. Drummer Adam Nussbaum has sat in on numerous guitar sessions including those by John Scofield, Dave Stryker, and John Abercrombie. Pianist Charles Blenzig has been Azzolina’s partner for the past seven years. Their chemistry certainly shows Blenzig as a sympathetic and supporting rhythm master. A few of the tunes are straight out of the Scofield-school, funky burners and a fat sound. Others draw on Pat Martino and Wes Montgomery for cleaner lines. There is plenty of soloing by each to satisfy Potter, Patitucci, and Nussbaum fans. Jay Azzolina is back from the (fusion) grave to take center stage in his second act.
Track List:Ben Hur, Ben Him; Inside Pies Eyes; Black Waltz; Lil’ Red; The Totem; Rhythms Change; Marvelous Marvin; My Ship.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.