Solo Guitar: Noël Akchoté, Esmond Selwyn, Jerry Hahn

Tom Greenland By

Sign in to view read count

Noël Akchoté
So Lucky
Winter & Winter

Esmond Selwyn
The Axe

Jerry Hahn
Hahn Solo

With the release of 1973's Virtuoso, Joe Pass threw down the gauntlet for solo guitar playing, showcasing a brilliant yet seemingly effortless stylistic amalgam of simultaneous bass line-walking, chordal accompaniment, and single-note improvisations that established a standard of technique and swing that has seldom been rivaled. Three recent releases show that fellow six- string slingers have taken Pass' challenge to heart, creating works of sophistication and finesse.

French guitarist Noël Akchoté has previously been associated with avant-leaning projects of heady conception and eclectic leanings, so his new recording, So Lucky, may surprise fans for its overtly commercial appeal. A collection of straightforward renditions of diatonic melodies and functional harmonies, emphasizing tunefulness over improvisative exploration, the album's appeal lies in its subtle variations on a theme, tasteful texturing and rubato moments. The tunes, an interesting mix of unknowns, sound like something you've heard before; an unlikely cover version of "The Locomotion nods to Pass in its side-slipping harmonies, legato eighth-note passages and interpolated basslines.

British guitarist Esmond Selwyn has such astounding technique that you wonder why he's not better known stateside. The Axe, recorded 'live' (two-thirds in-studio, one-third on-gig), is somewhat frustrating: the one-take-only vibe of the album generates palatable excitement, demonstrating that Selwyn's jazz spirit is alive and well, but the guitarist's predilection for mid-range chord voicings comes out a bit muddy in the final mix. In spite of this minor flaw, the playing is outstanding and inspired, bringing life to a who's who of standard chestnuts: "Stella by Starlight is boppy and full of brio, rippling with muscular, daredevil lines that make up for with charisma what they occasionally lack in accuracy; "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square is contemplative, laced with spicy chromatics and spacey meanderings; and "All the Things You Are is a tour-de- forcefulness, a fast and furious two-way conversation of juxtaposed registers.

The closest kin to Pass, perhaps, is longtime John Handy guitarist Jerry Hahn, who, with Solo, proves himself a worthy successor to the guitar-as-one-man-band lineage. Like Selwyn, Hahn favors well known standards, adeptly handling the various chores usually delegated across an entire combo; like Akchoté, Hahn's arrangements are well constructed and eminently guitar friendly. Favoring a lightly chorused tone, most of the cuts serve the melody, with brief solo outings that showcase the guitarist's impeccable rhythmic drive and flowing legato ornaments, accenting the contours with unusual humps and bumps. Standout tracks include the swinging "What a Friend We Have in Jesus , "Sophisticated Lady , rendered with raked chords and fretboard flurries, and the soulful "God Bless the Child , played with clean tone.

In their own way, each of these guitarists brings a comprehensive and compelling vision to the challenging art of solo guitar playing. Poppa Pass would have been proud.

Tracks & Personnel

So Lucky

Tracks: Bittersweet Goodbye; Some Kind of Bliss; My Secret Heart; Come Into My World; Red Blooded Woman; The Loco-motion; Can't Get You Out of My Head; Giving You Up; Confide in Me; Tears on My Pillow; Fragile; Slow; Tell Tale Signs; I Should Be So Lucky; Wouldn't Change A Thing; Turn It Into Love; Especially for You; Fever; I'll Still Be Loving You; The Crying Game.

Personnel: Noël Akchoté: acoustic & electric guitars.

The Axe

Tracks: Lover Man; Cheek to Cheek; Easy Living; I Never Knew; Skylark; I Should Care; Stella by Starlight; Tenderly; Moonglow; 'Round Midnight; How About You?; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square; All the Things You Are; My Old Flame; It Might as Well Be Spring; Dancing on the Ceiling; You've Changed; I Fall In Love Too Easily/Softly As In a Morning Sunrise; For All We Know/I Can't Get Started.

Personnel: Esmond Selwyn: electric guitar.

Hahn Solo

Tracks: My Funny Valentine; Days of Wine & Roses; Polka Dots & Moon Beams; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; Stella by Starlight; Darn That Dream; My One & Only Love; Angel Eyes; Sophisticated Lady; Prelude to a Kiss; There is No Greater Love; God Bless the Child; As the Deer.

Personnel: Jerry Hahn: electric guitar.


More Articles

Read Duke Ellington on Storyville Records Multiple Reviews Duke Ellington on Storyville Records
by Chris Mosey
Published: March 20, 2017
Read Lee Morgan On Music Matters Multiple Reviews Lee Morgan On Music Matters
by Greg Simmons
Published: March 6, 2017
Read Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago Multiple Reviews Dan Phillips Returns To Chicago
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 21, 2017
Read New, Notable and Nearly Missed Multiple Reviews New, Notable and Nearly Missed
by Phil Barnes
Published: January 25, 2017
Read Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas Multiple Reviews Blues Deluxe: Colin James, Matthew Curry and Johnny Nicholas
by Doug Collette
Published: January 14, 2017
Read Weekertoft Hits Its Stride… Multiple Reviews Weekertoft Hits Its Stride…
by John Eyles
Published: January 7, 2017
Read "Three New Releases from Peter Kuhn" Multiple Reviews Three New Releases from Peter Kuhn
by Dave Wayne
Published: August 4, 2016
Read "Leonard Cohen and His Legacy" Multiple Reviews Leonard Cohen and His Legacy
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 19, 2016
Read "Three saxophonists very different paths since "Propagations"" Multiple Reviews Three saxophonists very different paths since...
by John Eyles
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Miles Ahead Soundtrack / Live in Tokyo 1975" Multiple Reviews Miles Ahead Soundtrack / Live in Tokyo 1975
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 31, 2016
Read "Montreux Through The Decades: Jazz Recordings, Part One" Multiple Reviews Montreux Through The Decades: Jazz Recordings, Part One
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 27, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!