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Griffith Hiltz Trio: This Is What You Get

Dave Wayne By

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Groovy, somewhat off-kilter jazz is the order of the day for the Griffith Hiltz Trio, a young Canadian band comprised of reedman Johnny Griffith, multi-instrumentalist Nathan Hiltz, and drummer Sly Juhas. One novel aspect of their music is tied into the group's instrumentation. Hiltz simultaneously plays guitar while holding down the bass lines using pedals, just like an organist would on the Hammond B-3. The trio's music is not quite the funk-fest one might surmise, given the players' youth. For the most part, the trio eschews lengthy, dissonant, open-ended compositions in favor of compact, intensely melodic creations that belie a wry sense of humor.

Both saxophonist Griffith and guitarist Hiltz are economical players whose melodic improvisational approach comes from the pre-fusion / pre-free jazz era. Hiltz' sparkling, percussive guitar style owes as much to 20th Century icons such as Chet Atkins, Danny Gatton, and Jim Hall as it does to any number of present-day jazz guitar stylists. It's as much of a surprise when he goes for some gnarly distortion on the title track, as it is when he whips out a banjo for his solo on "Strawman." Griffith has an easygoing, mellow sound that owes much to players such as Paul Desmond. "The Rainbow Connection" proves Griffith to be an extremely fine bass clarinetist, with a rich, dark sound. Sly Juhas' drumming is right in the pocket; never too busy but never too passive.

In addition to their obvious appreciation for older jazz styles, made plain on the boppish "Steppin' Out," odd-meter rhythms crop up on "MGM," and "Port Hillford Railway." The latter is particularly interesting, with thematic material that alternates Hiltz' Mahavishnu-like arpeggios with Griffith's mellow alto. The album's most adventurous track,"The Kuleshascope," sandwiches breezy, melodic bebop passages between slabs of sludgy, dissonant rock. "Bone Arm" floats a lonely saxophone melody over a gently pulsing up-tempo rhythm, broken up by a few bars of odd time and an unexpected , acrobatic sax- drums improvisation. "For Otis" is a sweet, simple funk tune, while "Strawman" is an artful negotiation between swing and backbeat. However, the most remarkable thing about This Is What You Get is the trio's knack for consistently coming up with strong, hummable melodies.

Track Listing: Strawman; The Kuleshascope; For Otis; MGM; Steppin' Out; Bone Arm; Port Hillford Railway; This is What You Get; The Rainbow Connection; Movie Theme--Condor and Squid.

Personnel: Johnny Griffith: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Nathan Hiltz: electric guitar, bass pedals; Sly Juhas: drums.

Title: This Is What You Get | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced

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