James Sherlock's eighth album as leader sees the Melbourne-based guitarist return to the trio format for the first time since Domestic Arts (Jazzhead, 2010). Where that album was predominantly standards-weighteda gorgeous version of The Strangler's "Golden Brown" apartthis one, Sherlock's first with bassist Sam Anning and drummer Danny Fischer, showcases his songwriting chops as much as his stellar guitar playing. All originals, the eight compositions encompass swing and blues alongside Sherlock's more contemporary frameworks. The results are uniformly satisfying.
Sherlock shares some of Jim Hall's precision and economya marriage of wonderful articulation and a feel for playing just the right note at the right time. But perhaps more than Hall, it is the spirit of Wes Montgomery which imbues Sherlock's soloing on swing-based fare such as the album opener "Goldilocks" and the delightful "Mousie" where his bluesy lines are punctuated by lightly dancing chords and bright harmonics. Anning and Fischer are a buoyant presence throughout, frequently coming into their own in the generous space which Sherlock's uncluttered arrangements afford.
There is a distinct division between Sherlock's archtop-led tunes and those featuring nylon string acoustic guitar. The former, with the exception of the atmospheric "Nathan of the North," fall fairly neatly into the swing-and-blues category, whereas the latter avoid such easy labelling. The first of the acoustic numbers is the handsome, brushes-driven "BenSamBen," which, refreshingly, places Anning's coursing bass solo before Sherlock's fleet-fingered response. "Watermark" sees pedal-filtered electric guitar ply a melodic course over a delicate acoustic blueprint. Though clearly a guitarist steeped in the tradition, there is enough evidence here to suggest that more experimental music lies within Sherlock's grasp.
A fine addition to his consistently impressive discography, The Verb Not the Noun makes the case for Sherlock as one of modern jazz's most elegant guitarists.
Goldilocks; Mousie; BenSamBen; 2 Key Blues; Hurry up and Wait; Nathan of the North; You Stepped On My
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