On his new CD, guitarist Jeff Ciampo exhibits not onlySigns of Life, but also signs of creativity, fluid and expressive playing, and excellent compositional skills. While at first listen, the music has much the same sonic ambiance of many other contemporary guitar combo releases (guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, plus occasional sax), it soon becomes apparent that this program is free of all of the formulaic cliches that hinder much of today's contemporary fare, such as drum machines, sweet vocals with throwaway lyrics, and that over-produced, sacharrine-sweet veneer. The CD maintains an easy-going comfortable groove while navigating some complex and interesting compositions. It's like a duck, sailing serenely on the water's surface, yet paddling hard beneath the surface. Every tune maintains the listener's interest. The CD merits repeated listenings.
The CD is released on bassist Mark Egan's Wavetone label, which has heretofore released CDs by Egan and Elements, the group he co-leads with drummer and long-time collaborator Danny Gottlieb. (The label has since released a Joe Beck CD as well.) The presence of the bass-drum duo of Egan and Gottlieb contribute significantly to the disc's success. I've always enjoyed Egan's unique style of playing and soloing on fretless bass; check out his work on "Somewhere, Sometime" . Gottlieb never overpowers with bombast, prefering instead to paint his rhythm with subtle shading using a broad palatte. The interplay among the musicians, especially during the less-structured sections of the tunes, is hand-in-glove.
Give me this over most of what passes for "smooth jazz" any day. (Wavetone WT8636)
Tracks:Samba USA; Habanero Nights; Somewhere, Sometime; Ice Rain; Spring Song; Signs of Life; I've Heard it Before; The Sabo'nim; Water Dance; No Way Out. (58:53)
Jeff Ciampa, guitar; Mark Egan, bass; Danny Gottlieb, drums; Jon Werking, Richard Martinez, keyboards; Billy Drewes, saxophone.
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