While guitarist Pat Metheny has moved on to forge his own distinctive style since playing with Boston legend Mick Goodrick in vibraphonist Gary Burton's mid-'70s group, Goodrick's harmonic sensibility has been one of the foundations on which Metheny has built his approach. This was apparent during Metheny's performance with Goodrick
at this year's Montreal Jazz Festival.
Goodrick has never received the kind of credit that he's truly deserved, yet listening to Björn Wennås, a young Swedish guitarist who now calls Boston his home, it's clear that Goodrick's influence continues to be felt amongst a younger generation of players. Wennås has his own things to say on Static, his third release as a leader, alongside (among others) bassist Bruno Råberganother Swedish musician, who has been an educator at the Berklee School of Music, where Wennås studied; and who has a number of records out himself, including last year's sleeper, the remarkable Chrysalis. But listening to his harmonic conception on "J.D., a duet with Råberg, and "L'Uomo e la Montagna, a sextet piece that features Råberg along with drummer Ziv Ravitz, trumpeter Phil Grenadier, vocalist Carmen Marsico, and pianist Michel Reis, one can't help but recall Goodrick's own '79 ECM recording, In Pas(s)ing.
It's also interesting to hear how youngish guitarists who are emerging as icons in their own right are influencing an even younger generation of players. While Wennås is a sparer player, a certain density of tone and arpeggiated approach demonstrates how Kurt Rosenwinkel, still only in his mid-30s, is already making his mark.
But despite these inevitable comparisons, what makes Static a success is Wennås' own way of subsuming his influences into an approach all his own. He rephrases the familiar theme on Miles Davis' "Nardis in a fresh way that leads into a surprising 4/4 swing and a solo that, like all his work on Static, is defined by economy, a refreshing avoidance of pyrotechnics, and a clear eye on the meaning of every note and phrase.
Wennås demonstrates a unique take on standard material, like his duet with Marsico on Monk's "Ruby My Dear and his reading of Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament, where he broadens the trio's complexion with some subtle sound processing, are both inventive yet respectful, but he's also a composer of promise. The arco ostinato and funk-laden drums of "Song 2 ultimately set up a rhythmically and harmonically idiosyncratic theme that leads into some intriguing interplay between Wennås, Marsico, and Grenadier. The title track demonstrates a kind of skewed lyricism over a repeated single-note figure from Grenadier, while the darker hue of "L'Uomo e la Montagne reveals a more romantic bent.
That Wennås' influences are currently worn so visibly on his sleeve would suggest that he has some growing to do. True enough, but based on the maturity of his conception on Static, it's a fair bet that he'll ultimately deliver on its not insignificant promise.
Visit Björn Wennås on the web.