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Christy Doran: Undercurrent - Live at Theater Gutersloh

Ian Patterson By

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Irish-born, Lucerne-based guitarist Christy Doran is as versatile as he is prolific. From the beguiling duo collaboration with Chinese pipa virtuoso Yang Jing that was No. 9 (Leo Records, 2013) and the swaggering alt-rock of New Bag's Mesmerized (Double Moon Records, 2013) to Bunter Hund's genre-busting, accordion-cum-guitar driven Walkin' The Dog (Unit Records 2014) and the experimental electro-acoustic Kontaktchemie (Boomslang Records, 2016) with drummer Alfred Vogel, Doran's music is nothing if not a moveable feast. Undercurrent—the fourteenth in a series of European Jazz Legends recordings co-produced by Jazz thing magazine, label Intuition and broadcaster WDR 3—captures Doran alongside electric bassist Franco Fontanarrossa and drummer Lukas Mantel in a 2017 concert at the Theatre Gütersloh in central Germany.

This is the second release by Doran's Sound Fountain trio, following on from its debut Belle Époque (Between the Lines, 2016). All new material—with a couple of older Doran tunes revisited—sees writing duties equally shared and it's this egalitarian spirit that renders Undercurrent very much a collective effort. Rather than simply bringing their respective songs to the table, there's the feeling that they're writing for each other, with tightly choreographed ensemble work dovetailing with evenly proportioned virtuoso freedom.

Doran is in pole position for "You'd Never Know You Know," a beautifully understated blues workout, where sotto voce bass and whispering brushes provide silken support to the guitarist's slow-burning, Jimi Hendrix-esque excursion. Hendrix, as Doran acknowledged in a 2013 interview with All About Jazz, is a seminal influence, and the blues-edged experimentalism that is the record's undercurrent owes something of a debt to the Seattle guitarist. Doran, however, remains an utterly distinctive guitarist in his own right; whether pursuing avant-garde, pedal-altered dynamics on "For the Kick of It," or embracing the sci-fi abstraction of the episodic title track, Doran's early 1970s' grounding in free-jazz and bluesy psychedelia makes for a vibrant sonic canvas.

Mantel and Fontanarrossa's respective compositions also carry very personal stamps. Mantel's impressionistic "The Spanish Moment"—a feature for Fontanarrossa—has a dreamy, off-kilter baroque feel to it, while the head, unison lines and solos of the lively "Leakin'" follow a more orthodox path. Fontanarrossa's "Abstraccion Felina" is a mazy exploration of changing time signatures, knotty melodic lines, and contrasts between quiet introspection and explosive statements. The bassist's "Mystery Shopper" feels like three tunes in one, shifting from knotty unison lines to outright abstraction—with bass notes slurring as though played back at slower speed—and culminating in a typically feisty, effects-colored Doran solo over a vibrant rhythm.

A five-minute interview with Doran will be of interest to speakers of German, but seems like an odd encore, especially considering that the CD liner notes are entirely in English and therefore intended for an international audience. Still, at the end of the day it's the music that counts, and with Undercurrent Doran adds another visceral chapter to his considerable legend.

Track Listing: You'd Never Know You Know; For the Kick of it; Undercurrent; The Spanish Moment; Abstraccion Felina; Leakin'; Mystery Shopper; Interview with Christy Doran.

Personnel: Christy Doran: e-guitar; Franco Fontanarrosa: e-bass; Lukas Mantel: drums.

Title: Undercurrent - Live at Theater Gutersloh | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Intuition

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