Home » Jazz Articles » Tom Guarna: Spirit Science

9
Album Review

Tom Guarna: Spirit Science

By

Sign in to view read count
Tom Guarna: Spirit Science
With The Wishing Stones (Destiny Records, 2017) New York-based guitarist Tom Guarna released something of a breakthrough album, featuring a prominently cast quartet made up of Brian Blade on drums, John Patitucci on bass and pianist Jon Cowherd. With that album Guarna perfected his personal style of composition, which sees post-bop language taken to more extensive structures filtered through modern sonic production values. Spirit Science picks up where that album left off and delivers another engaging set of modern post-bop extravaganzas performed by another top-tier selection of sidemen.

Most cuts on the record get to the point straight away and find the band engaging with each other confidently, as the opener "The Trion Re" demonstrates. Aaron Parks lays out determined chord blocks on piano, subdividing the six-time in three, while Ben Wendel's sax soars on the theme, in unison with slightly distorted guitar leads. Justin Faulkner's drum work is tight and driven throughout the album but shows enough restraint to let the melodic qualities of the compositions remain at the center and forefront. Guarna reveals that he does not mind shredding in fusion fashion à la John McLaughlin either, but rather proves quite competent in that particular field.

Style and pace shift equally throughout the nine tunes which together clock in at just over an hour. RnB-infused balladic grooves like "Platonic Solids" introduce electronic soundscapes to the record, brought in by Parks on Fender Rhodes and Guarna switching to a more synthesized electric guitar tone. The title track on the other hand works in direct contrast to that notion and finds Guarna on acoustic guitar, taking on a more chordal approach in a bossa nova-themed exercise which feels quite new to the Guarna-Songbook and suits his playing well.

The scientific theme enveloping Spirit Science isn't expressed through title or the geometrical shapes gracing the cover artwork (water painting by Cameron Mizeli) alone. Guarna's knack for odd meters, their balanced dispersion across the instruments, and continuous shifts fit into the thematic concept and can be heard on several cuts, which disclose this notion by way of their titles. "Two Circles" is introduced by a simple plucked guitar pattern counted in six. Syncopation playfully tosses the bars around but doesn't change the meter before the entire count of the composition shifts to a nine time. Similar sleights of hand are found on "The Genesis Pattern," whose opening piano chords allude to a six time before the band joins in on a half-time feel in 4 only to immediately drop into a fast-paced 5 time. Surely complex gimmicks that are impressive on their own, but what really stands out is the ease with which the band interpret the time-trades and elegantly walk the melodies through the bars.

Spirit Science is another fabulous entry into Guarna's discography as well as a distinguished addition to the canon of mainstream, modern jazz guitar records; it may not belong among the most paradigm-shifting styles out there, but when executed in this way guarantees a satisfying hour of terrific musicianship and emotional engagement.

Track Listing

The Trion Re; Platonic Solids; The Genesis Pattern; Spirit Science; Two Circles; A Reflection in a Reflection (for Kofi Burbridge); Metatron's Cube; Source; Lullyaby for Lena.

Personnel

Tom Guarna: guitar, electric; Ben Wendel: saxophone; Aaron Parks: piano; Joe Martin: bass; Justin Faulkner: drums.

Album information

Title: Spirit Science | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Destiny Records


FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

WE NEED YOUR HELP
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Post a comment about this album

Tags

More

Le Tre Sorelle
Alla Boara
Moten/López/Cleaver
Fred Moten, Brandon López, Gerald Cleaver

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and includes upcoming jazz events near you.