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Tom Guarna And The Ted Ludwig Trio At Jazz At The Joint

Tom Guarna And The Ted Ludwig Trio At Jazz At The Joint

Courtesy Pete Coco


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Tom Guarna
The Joint
Little Rock, AR
March 7, 2021

One of the curious results of 2005's Hurricane Katrina was its diasporic sequelae. Every order of New Orleans inhabitants interpreted the thrown bones of that event and elected to leave for safer climes. One of the greatest beneficiaries of this migration was Arkansas, which assimilated many NOLA expatriates into her own rich tapestry. One such ex-pat was guitarist and composer Ted Ludwig, who, with his mother, made Little Rock home where he quickly formed a trio, taking up residence at the Capitol Hotel. Between then and now, Ludwig married symphony violinist Lenore McIntyre, and established a busy instruction schedule, while taking time out to make several recordings.

Ludwig hosts Jazz at the Joint, a concert series held every second Monday of the month at The Joint, a cabaret theater and coffeehouse in the heart of the Argenta Arts District in North Little Rock. As the Covid-19 pandemic becomes endemic and nightlife reaches its new normal, Ludwig returns with an impressive roster of upcoming performances that include bassist Nat Reeves, vocalist (and Arkansas native) Roseanna Vitro, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, and guitarist Peter Bernstein.

For the March 2022 edition of Jazz at the Joint, Ludwig brought in noted Brooklyn native and guitarist Tom Guarna, who's 2020 Spirit Science (Destiny Records) was critically well received. Guarna has performed with Wallace Roney, Stanley Clarke, Mark Turner, and Branford Marsalis, as well as touring with Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Guarna joined Ludwig and his regular trio of bassist Joe Vick and drummer Brian Brown, who, with Ludwig, are inductees in the Arkansas Jazz Heritage Foundation's Hall of Fame. The trio has been a solid presence in the Little Rock area for the past 15 years. Guarna's addition added a unique juxtaposition in guitar styles alongside that of Ludwig. Both men possess a fluid melodic playing style with Ludwig's tone being slightly softer and rounder than Guana's more assertive and edgy timbre.

The performance consisted of two 45-minute sets separated by a short intermission. The confines of The Joint are small and cozy, where an easy banter can exist between the audience and stage. The quartet opened the show with a lengthy reading of Wes Montgomery's "West Coast Blues." The head arrangement allowed for ample solo space for the two principals as well as bassist Vick, whose contribution was both solid and noteworthy. Ludwig and Guarna's presentation foreshadowed the remainder of the recital in velocity and dynamics.

Before introducing the next piece, Ludwig quipped that he and Guarna got together and asked, "What Wes [Montgomery] song will we do and what Kenny [Burrell] will we do?" "Midnight Blue" was the Burrell piece chosen, the quartet performing the tune with a solid but unhurried, momentum, Guana's soloing being particularly inspiring. Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'n' You followed providing the concert with a touch of bebop and Ludwig a new song to include in his repertoire. The remaining highlights included a ballad diptych pairing Whiting/Robin/Chase's "My Ideal" with "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," and the late Pat Martino's "The Visit."

The central Arkansas area is fortunate to have talent like the Ted Ludwig Trio and to be able to draw such talent as Tom Guarna, as well as a hip venue like The Joint.

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