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Solo jazz attempts to make too much of either a good thing or not enough of something else. In solo guitar jazz, Joe Pass set the standard in 1973 with his series of Virtuoso recordings. But, for allthe Pass acolytes currently plying their trade, guitarist Ron Affif stands out. And not just because he records for Pass's former producer (Eric Miller) or for the guitarist's celebrated label (Pablo). Affif's fifth disc under his own name, Solotude, strikes enough of a balance to make the tenuous solo guitar thing work and goes one step further in establishing this highly talented guitarist's own identity.
"A lot of guys, when they play solo," declares Affif in the disc's liner notes, "treat it as such a different animal that all of a sudden they play different." How true. Affif - who does sound a bit more distinctive as a soloist - tends to honor this commitment. He does not attempt to fill in for the missing rhythm section or compliment his style with alternative representation. Whereas that may allow a less personable soloist to sound just plain boring on his own, rarely does Affif allow himself to get caught up in his own world either.
Over a program of a baker's dozen tunes, Affif alternates familiar, well-honed jazz chestnuts with several interesting originals ("Mark," "Charene," "Holly"). He also switches comfortably between the acoustic guitar (interestingly, on all three of his originals and "Honeysuckle Rose") and his more familiar electric axe. On electric, he brings many of Pass's refinements to the fore. But at the slower to medium tempos that dominate, he never showers with many notes or showy style.
Affif also adds subtle bluesy touches to achieve something unusual from the melodies of "Mark," "Dolphin Dance," "Honeysuckle Rose," and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." And his takes on "Autumn in New York" and "My Romance" have a lovely sort of lullaby quality too. Solotude is an altogether ideal showcase for this this talented guitarist.
Tracks:Mark; Autumn In New York; Charene; Dolphin Dance; I Love You; I've Never Been In Love Before; Holly; What Is This Thing Called Love?; But Beautiful; Honeysuckle Rose; All The Things You Are; My Romance; They Can't Take That Away From Me.
Players:Ron Affif: acoustic guitar, electric guitar.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.