If in the past you'd asked me about jazz guitar, a few words might have been offered about Wes Montgomery
, and a few more about a beloved Jazz 'Round Midnight
reissue of one of the great records that Django Reinhardt
cut with violinist Stephane Grappelli
. A vague opinion might then have been tossed off that is admittedly weak: that jazz as a musical form is about as problematic for guitar (even well-played) as it is for electric organ.
In a sense, then, it's a surprise that I was moved to review Dutch guitarist Daan Kleijn
. At the same time, it's a pleasure to note that, apparently, even cool-jazz conservatives can open up and learn. Trio
is a rewardingly original and affecting disc. It's a nice mix of up-tempo and ballad work, weaving four of Kleijn's own compositions around four classics.
As the title notes, Kleijn's clean, spare lead guitar has only two backers. Bassist Tobias Nuboer and drummer Joost Van Schalk are perfectly matched to Kleijn's style, a kind of maximized minimalism. They're well stocked in their abilities to take off and riff, but neither ever turns his instrument into virtuosic tedium. Like Kleijn, they understand the importance of melody and the storyline of a song. And they create a contemporary jazz approach that has strong roots yet moves ahead adventurously.
The classics here are nicely chosen. Cole Porter
's "So In Love" swings more vividly than the vocal version usually performed. So does the other Porter, "Ev'rything I Love." Porter with some extra push is not an obvious choice, but it's fascinating in Kleijn's slightly brassy arrangements. The Duke Ellington
"Star Crossed Lovers" is ethereal and spacious, floating somewhere Ellington probably would have loved. The disc closes with the well-known "When It's Sleepy Time Down South." You might wonder how a young, modern Dutch jazz combo could handle a 1931 composition with a mint julep-ish sentimentality. Well, they handle it with a jazz sensibility that migrates gracefullyincluding a treatment that's unmistakably 21st century.
The four Kleijn originals have a wide range and much originality especially an aerial adventurism with guitar that was news to me.
Kleijn's liner notes include, ..."I've always been drawn to the openness and freedom indigenous to the guitar trio. There is space to breathe and, to me, music is exactly about that."
One reason this CD is so enjoyable is the clean, open air and aesthetically appealing sanity it provides in a period of general commercial crowding and ax grinding. It's enjoyable first thing in the morning and late at night, and it grows on you in the way any art does when it's thoughtful as well as beautiful.