Unless you've been off planet lately, you've most likely heard (or at least heard of) Snarky Puppy. Their rise has certainly been hard to miss. So too is the fact that the band is populated by some very promising young musicians -many of whom have been dipping their toes into solo waters lately. The most recent of these ventures is the debut from SP guitarist Bob Lanzetti, Whose Feet Are These That Are Walking.
This release doesn't come without a degree of expectancy. The individual talents of the Pup's guitar triumvirate (that also includes Mark Lettieri and Chris McQueen) certainly garner enough fan interest to create a hunger for side output. There have also been Youtube videos around for a few years of Lanzetti presenting some of these tunes in a solo showcase format that have lended to the anticipation.
But those familiar only with his recorded work with SP may be surprised with the tack Lanzetti has taken on much of this first solo outing. While there are a host of influences at work here, (and many that do surface in his playing with SP), most notable perhaps are sizable Americana and Roots Rock leanings -(that largely go sub rosa on his main gig). The inclusion of pedal steel into the album's core instrumentation is an interesting choice and certainly underscores this at times, though it should be noted that its use is often sonically non-traditional. Coupled with the succinct melodic focus given to the compositions, there are moments that hint at the Frisellian as well as the Beatlesque -especially on "Happy Stranger" and the delightfully playful / jubilant "Frances." There's also the album opening "B," which conjures vibes that might not be so out of place next to late 70's Petty or Clapton, and a rendering of the Beach Boys' "Caroline No" that also makes one realize how bad the original was begging to be covered instrumentally.
That said, there's still things here that stylistically peg him to his other band. The Afro-Beat inflected "Ivory" could easily slip into the SP canon and indeed, a version of the rousing "Anomynous" was included on the DVD of Snarky Puppy's 2010 release Tell Your Friends -(though Lanzetti's treatment of the song here is a bit more evolved). But despite a few of these familiar settings (and guest appearances by many of his SP bandmates throughout the record), the blend here is decidedly his own.
Though Lanzetti does find occasion for the tasteful application of the guitar afterburners -especially in turns on the aforementioned "Anomynous" and "Ivory" -it's a measured economy and mature restraint that are the main hallmarks of WFATTAW and happily remove it from the excesses of "guitar-slinger" debut territory. As with the album as a whole, the guitarist's emphasis is on tone, touch and melodicism rather than unbridled chops. This is perhaps best embodied in the album closing, "Jenny is a Donkey," where the abundant space allows for fuller relish of the subtleties employed.
As such there may be a few coming to this debut who, hungry for a more chops-heavy guitar manifesto, may come away feeling a bit peckish, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. With the dearth of gorgeous string textures and tones, this is still, among other things, very much a guitar album. And while there's ample evidence Lanzetti could have made "that other" album had he wanted, the charms of the more refined sensibilities on display here come into bolder relief with each listen.
What he has presented with Whose Feet Are Those That Are Walking is a thoughtfully executed musical plate, replete with uncommonly clean flavors -at once tasty, signature in style and just spare enough to keep the appetite truly stoked for more from Mr. Lanzetti in the future.
B, Happy Stranger, Frances, Ivory, Caroline No, Anomynous, Jenny is a Donkey.
Bob Lanzetti: Guitar, acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, hammertone guitar, piano; Jordan
Perlson: drums/percussion; Philip Sterk: Pedal steel guitar; Matt Aronoff: bass. Additional musicians.
Michael League: bass; Cory Henry: organ; Frank LoCrasto:
Prophet 5 Synthesizer; Justin Stanton: Prophet 6 Synthesizer; Nate Werth, James
Shipp, and Marcelo Woloski: Percussion; Liam Robinson: Accordion; Mike Maher and
Jay White: vocals.