Guitarist / composer Tom Guarna uses geometric concepts and patterns as a starting point on Spirit Science, his eighth album as leader, pairing its mathematical precision with spiritual awareness to more faithfully represent his musical point of view. Be that as it may, Guarna's handiwork must of course be appraised for its perception and effect on the listener, not for any tenets on which it is based.
In other words, when all the premises have been explored, what remains is late-model jazz performed by Guarna's able quintet. And although most of the songs use mathematical and / or spiritual concepts as their basis, Guarna emphasizes that "you don't have to know any of that to like the music." Which is true. Once the downbeat is given, the music speaks for itself. On Spirit Science it speaks rather well, albeit without the sort of eloquent voice that would set it apart from many others competing to entrap one's ear.
Make no mistake, Guarna is a talented player, as are his companions: tenor saxophonist Ben Wendel, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Justin Faulkner. Parks uses a Fender Rhodes and synth to add color and variety (for Wendel, the flip card is bassoon). Guarna, who composed every number, writes well toobut here again, there is nothing that says "wow! I have to hear that again!" It's good without being grand. It should be stressed, however, that no one is doing anything amiss. Solos are respectable, interplay as seamless as would be expected from veteran pros. The upshot is for the most part decorous music, tastefully played.
To phrase it another way, Spirit Science is quite good. That it lacks the special qualities that would advance it above that level is a matter of opinion. Others may well find more here than meets these ears and sentiments. Whatever the verdict, pro or con, it is well worth checking out.
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.
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.