Vin Venezia won't blow your mind or even knock your socks offthat's simply not his style. The New Jersey-based guitarist will, however, lure you into his orbit with the sort of smooth and mellow sounds and precisely articulated phrases often associated such masters as Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass and others who blazed a trail for contemporary jazz guitarists. Venezia traces their footsteps, but does so in his own way, which is one reason why his sophomore album, The Venetian, is such a pleasure to hear.
Other reasons include Venezia's astute choice of material and sidemen, with saxophonists Danny Walsh and Bob Magnuson, pianist David Budway and especially bassist Harvie S and drummer Richie Morales lending their sizable talents to help ensure the album's success. Harvie S and Morales are singled out owing to the fact that, unlike the others, they are present on almost every number, notable exceptions being Venezia's solo feature, Billy Strayhorn's mournful "Lush Life," and two versions of his composition, "Without a Sound," which close the album.
Venezia has chosen five more well-known standards to accompany a trio of oft-covered jazz staples by Miles Davis, Chick Corea's lyrical "Windows," Pat Metheny's ballad "Tell Her You Saw Me" and "Without a Sound," whose brief reprise is the closest Venezia comes to veering from the straight and narrow. Venezia and the quartet open with an exquisite reading of Henry Mancini's "Days of Wine and Roses" (admirable brush work by Morales) and are joined by Magnuson (his lone appearance) for an up-tempo romp through the first of Davis' themes, "Solar."
Venezia's two-minute solo introduces the lovely "Stella by Starlight," after which Walsh enters for the first time, on the standard "Alone Together." Following "Lush Life," Walsh returns on Davis' "Nardis" and "Tune Up," wherein he and Venezia seem to be having great fun on a long and captivating guitar/tenor soli. Harvie S solos smartly on "Days of Wine and Roses" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Insensitive," and plays splendid arco on "Tell Her You Saw Me," while Morales earns his solo shot (and nails it) on an animated reading of Cole Porter's "I Love You." Budway adds eloquent statements on "Solar," "Stella" and "I Love You."
Although Venezia's may not be a household name, he compares quite favorably to the legends who preceded and inspired him, and has made a strong case on The Venetian for his inclusion in any discussion about today's foremost jazz guitarists. An excellent mandate from start to finish.
Days of Wine and Roses; Solar; Stella by Starlight; Alone Together; How Insensitive; Windows;
Lush Life; Nardis; Tune Up; Tell Her You Saw Me; I Love You; Without a Sound; Without a Sound
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