In his biography, guitarist Andr' Bush cites creative composers/players including Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett and, most notably, Pat Metheny as seminal influences. And, to be sure, Bush's disposition towards longer-form composition clearly puts him in the same general space as Metheny and Shorter, with his latest release, Start from Silence , being filled with pieces of detailed complexion that are evocative, strongly visual and somewhat deceptive. Like Metheny, Bush's penchant for the lyrical, for melodies that stay firmly in mind, give one the impression that the writing is superficially more straightforward than it is. But dig a little deeper and beneath the easily-grasped exterior is a more challenging writer who comfortably mixes the abstract with the visceral, the ethereal with the substantial.
If Bush's playing has any specific frame of reference, here it is in the harmonic openness and appealing ambiguity of John Abercrombie, especially on the tender jazz waltz "New Born," where Bush, pianist Art Lande and saxophonist/bass clarinetist Bruce Williamson create rich contrapuntal lines. The three acoustic guitar solos, "Start from Silence, part one," "Start from Silence, part two" and "Start from Silence, part three," with sonic treatments by BluCube, are cut from the same cloth as Abercrombie's classic solo album Characters , similarly leaning to the spacious and abstruse. And even on more aggressive tracks like "An Even Three" and "Degree of Difficulty," where Bush employs both a more overdriven sound and overt technical dexterity, there's something enigmatic about his choice of notes that references Abercrombie's occasionally more assertive stance.
But that's not to say that Bush is strictly an Abercrombie clone, just that he leans in the same general direction. Whereas Abercrombie is more about compositional sketches providing a loose framework for improvisation, Bush is clearly more about structure. The interplay between Bush, Williamson, Lande, bassist Peter Barshay and drummer Alan Hall, who only collect as a full quintet on half of ten original compositions, is more restrained. Still, for a group that has only come together for this session, a remarkable sense of identity pervades this work. And any recording that features Lande is worth checking out on the strength of his playing alone, his ability to be broadly explorative yet somewhat elusive blending perfectly with Bush's adventurous and harmonically unrestricted leanings.
Bush's use of bass clarinet and occasional melancholic tinge may bring to mind Norwegian guitarist Jacob Young 's recent album Evening Falls . But whereas Young's music demonstrates a certain folk element, Bush's approach is more pure, less diluted. The improvisational context of Young's music makes it unquestionably jazz, but less directly so; Bush, on the other hand, clearly comes from the tradition, honouring its history while remaining completely modern.
Start from Silence is Bush's third release since his '96 d'but, Darwin's Waiting Room. Based on the compelling writing, mature playing and strong group identity on this latest disc, it may well be time to go back and check out his earlier work.
Degree of Difficulty; Start from Silence, part one; You Are Who You Love; New Born; Start from Silence, part two; An Even Three; (Hand in the) Cookie Jar; Start from Silence, part three; We Have Never Seen the Absolute End...yet; You Are Who You Love (solo version)
Andr? Bush (electric guitar, low-tuned acoustic guitar, nylon string guitar), Art Lande (piano), Bruce Williamson (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet), Peter Barshay (bass), Alan Hall (drums), BluCube (sonic mischief)