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Matthew Charles Heulitt: Room to Run

Ian Patterson By

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Guitarist Matthew Charles Heulitt's eclectic CV hints at something of his genre-defying style; a member of drummer Zigaboo Modeliste's band and sideman in former Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report drummer Narada Michael Walden's group, he has also performed with Sting, Taj Mahal, Micky Hart and David Grisman, amongst others. This, his debut as leader, impresses on a number of levels. In what is essentially a trio setting, the compositions switch between electric and acoustic and explore elements of jazz, rock and folk.

Heulitt's expressive guitar is central to the music but never hijacks the compositions which are more about structure, mood and pace than exhibitionism. For sure, Heulitt can ring a great solo, but has the knack of doing so in a gradual and subtle manner not unlike Bill Frisell, probing and teasing the notes from his strings. There's plenty of room for drummer Jon Arkin and bassist Dan Feizli to express themselves, and the lovely buoyancy in this rhythm section—and the interaction between all three—is absorbing.

"Resurrected" is as good a calling card as any of the tracks, containing the essential hallmarks of Heulitt's musical personality: memorably melodic though never predictable; a guitar solo which creeps up slyly and captivatingly, and fine support from the rhythm section. Returning to the head, Heulitt seems to be closing the tune out before another shift in direction introduces a repeating motif, over which Arkin plays energetically. The tune dissolves eerily, with echoing guitar and loop-like effects.

Frisellian also the atmospheric "100 Years Ocean," with its shimmering guitar, distant, rumbling toms and washing cymbals like the sigh of the sea. This composition, along with the percussive vignettes "More in Time" and "Upbeat" serve like intercourse sorbets in a carefully thought out menu, clearing the palette of what came before and setting up what is to come.

Keyboardist Kit Walker and alto saxophonist Joe Cohen feature on the impressive "Never Present," with Jon Herrera on electric bass. Leaning heavily on mid- to late-'60s Miles Davis for inspiration—particularly in the bass line and electric piano sound—Cohen and Heulitt take the tune into rockier territory. Heulitt shows his dexterity, with thoughtful, meditative playing in the mid section contrasting with a brief but fiery exclamation at the end.

The pastoral "Clearing" sees Heulitt switching to acoustic guitar. This pretty, sinuous tune allows Feizli to stretch out gently and lyrically, before Heulitt displays fine chops of his own. As notable as the individual performance are, the overriding impression on Room to Run is one of compositional strength and empathetic playing. The CD closes with the delightful "Fountain of Worth"; bobbing bass and susurrus bells are joined by Bryan Bowman's wonderfully employed tabla. Alto sax purrs over dabs of keyboard color, probing bass and Heulitt's percussive guitar, which plays counterpoint to the tabla. Subtlety, power and grace inhabit a tune which speaks volumes for Huelitt's ability as a composer. A really fine debut which heralds the arrival of the guitarist as leader of a notable talent.

Track Listing: Resurrected; Clearing; More In Time; Never Present; Upbeat; Song for Diane; 100 Years Ocean; Taken Down; Prelude; Time's Arrow; Fountain of Worth.

Personnel: Matthew Charles Heulitt: guitar; Jon Arkin: drums; Dan Feizli: acoustic bass (1, 2, 6, 8, 10); Jon Herrera: electric bass (4, 11); Kit Walker: keyboards (4, 10, 11); Joe Cohen alto saxophone ( 4, 11); Bryan Bowman: tabla (11).

Title: Room To Run | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced


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