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Jonathan Kreisberg: Shadowless

John Kelman By

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Jonathan Kreisberg: Shadowless In a landscape populated by forty-something guitarists like Kurt Rosenwinkel and thirty-something six-stringers like Lage Lund, Jonathan Kreisberg stands alone. Sure, he's got the chops and linguistic sophistication of a group of peers who are the clear next step beyond the innovations of Pat Metheny, John Scofield and Bill Frisell , but what separates Kreisberg is his interest in expanding the sonic potential of his instrument; one of smaller subset of guitarists who approach the inherent orchestral nature of their instrument as much from a timbral perspective as they do a harmonic one. If The South of Everywhere (Mel Bay, 2007) was a breakthrough for this progressive rocker-turned-jazzer, then the more eclectic (both stylistically and sonically) Shadowless moves Kreisberg's entire conception a step further.

British expat saxophonist Will Vinson—another up-and-comer whose delivery consistently transcends his promise—is back from South of Everywhere. Everyone is, in fact, with the exception of Gary Versace, who's replaced by pianist Henry Hey, meaning that this regularly working group hit the studio with an extant chemistry felt from the first note. But this time, Kreisberg's significantly expanded sonic palette includes the octave-split, overdriven grunge and, at times, synth guitar-like tone of the high velocity, high energy "Stir the Stars," where Vinson sets the bar high with an incendiary solo met—and raised—by Kreisberg. A combination of sitar-guitar and copious distortion drive "The Common Climb," another set highlight. .As with the rest of Shadowless, however, Kreisberg doesn't just dial up a specific sound for a song; instead, he kicks specific components in and out, creating a constantly shifting wealth of textural variety.

Despite his inherent compositional complexity, Kreisberg appeals to both the head and the heart. There's no denying the demands of his fiery opener, "Twenty One," but despite this irregularly metered song's "find the one" challenge, its lyricism and compelling energy render academic assessment irrelevant. That Kreisberg, sporting a clean and warm hollow-body tone, is clearly on top of its knotty changes, and one tumult of a pulse from bassist Matt Penman and drummer Mark Ferber, only speaks to the guitarist's inherent sophistication; that the melody is also inherently singable speaks to his ability to layer accessible hooks, making even the most difficult chart feel organically approachable.

Kreisberg's warm tone also defines the title track, a stunning duet with Hey where the context's intrinsic nakedness spotlights both players' ample skill at playing over, around and through a piece with energy not unlike Chick Corea and Gary Burton's longstanding duo; Hey and Kreisberg similarly challenged as tag-team partners, effortlessly shifting musical responsibilities between themselves. It may last only a couple seconds, but a brief run of chiming, Lenny Breau-like harmonics at the song's end reveals even more about Kreisberg's prodigious, encyclopedic talent.

The sole cover, George Gershwin's "Nice Work If You Can Get It," swings hard, but with a knotty arrangement that fits in perfectly with the rest of the set. Shadowless is a testament to Kreisberg's burgeoning talent—and a clearly successful goal to transfer the energy of the stage to the sterile conditions of the studio.

Track Listing: Twenty One; Sir the Stars; Shadowless; Zembékiko; Long, Like a Mercury Day; The Common Climb; Defying Gravity; Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Personnel: Jonathan Kreisberg: guitar; Will Vinson: saxophone, piano (6); Henry Hey: piano; Matt Penman: bass; Mark Ferber: drums; Rich Stein: tambourine (6).

Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: New for Now Music | Style: Modern Jazz


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