169

Mark Guest: (Why We're) Happy Together

Jack Huntley By

Sign in to view read count
Mark Guest: (Why We're) Happy Together Guitarist Mark Guest's (Why We're) Happy Together seems built upon a simple premise: deliver solid, hip playing with a tight ensemble feel and see where it leads. If that is near to Guest's motive, he fully lived up to the creed. The album covers a fair amount of harmonic territory, but always lays down a genuine swing.

Guest's striking original, "This Tune Needs a Title," opens the disc with Guest's joyful and harmonically interesting style. While dipping in and out of the melody, his mostly straight-line soloing slips in just the right amount of harmonic tension before heading home. The track also shows off Guest's wonderful comping chops. Guest is a very hip accompanist who lays down a dynamic chordal fabric.

Switching rhythmic gears, Guest goes after the Mandel/Mercer standard, "Emily," opening it with a drone technique that nods to the great Lenny Breau. Guest grew up in Toronto, Canada listening to and briefly studying with the innovative Breau. But Guest is no mere impersonator; the guitarist has incorporated elements of the Breau sound, but it's his version all the way.

Guest is as creative an arranger as he is a guitarist. Whether adding small, unexpected turns to standards, or completely rearranging whole songs, Guest's creativity seems endless. Instead of just layering jazz inflections over The Turtles' pop classic, "Happy Together," Guest creates a whole new atmosphere and energy. From its brooding guitar/bowed-bass opening to pianist George Mesterhazy's stately solo, the pop tune is not so much forgotten as swallowed up in a new understanding of its harmonic possibilities.

Guest has also chosen wisely in his ensemble partners, with Mesterhazy a wonderfully supportive and inventive pianist. The Guest and Mesterhazy pairing is a musically fluid, easy one. Bassist Ian Bracchitta and drummer Sonny Thornton each add a distinct tone and presence; it's obvious these two have their own developed voices and Guest gives them room to shine.



The CD has much musical territory left to cover. Two beautiful Guest originals are included, as well as a slower rendition of the Sonny Rollins classic, "Tenor Madness." Opening with a soulful bass line, Guest and Mesterhazy roll their way into solos that play off of each other's voicings and licks. The give-and-take on this tune is a joy to hear.



The album concludes with a somber, beautiful "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" The band is in top form on this lament-filled ode, most famously covered by Louis Armstrong. Guest was a Gulf Coast resident until Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home and displaced his family to Asheville, North Carolina.



Guest's playing is reflective, lyric and touches a powerful musical nerve with simple elegance and straight-ahead tones. The entire album displays Guest's soulful understanding of a large musical terrain. All of which makes the CD subtitle, Metamorphous Jazz by Mark Guest, an apt moniker for the ever-evolving musical atmosphere his playing creates.


Track Listing: This Tune Needs a Title; Emily; There Is No Greater Love; Happy Together; My Romance; Out There; Mardis Bossa; Tenor Madness; Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.

Personnel: Mark Guest: guitar; Ian Bracchitta: bass; George Mesterhazy: piano; Sonny Thornton: drums.

Title: (Why We're) Happy Together | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Self Produced


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lantern CD/LP/Track Review Lantern
by John Kelman
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall) CD/LP/Track Review Inspirations (featuring Matthew Halsall)
by Phil Barnes
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Unification CD/LP/Track Review Unification
by Troy Dostert
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Developing Story CD/LP/Track Review Developing Story
by Edward Blanco
Published: June 26, 2017
Read Crossing CD/LP/Track Review Crossing
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 25, 2017
Read Unit[e] CD/LP/Track Review Unit[e]
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 25, 2017
Read "Clockwise / The Music of Cedar Walton" CD/LP/Track Review Clockwise / The Music of Cedar Walton
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 11, 2017
Read "Sunrain" CD/LP/Track Review Sunrain
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 25, 2016
Read "Zanshin" CD/LP/Track Review Zanshin
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 3, 2016
Read "Zentuary" CD/LP/Track Review Zentuary
by John Kelman
Published: December 25, 2016
Read "The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke" CD/LP/Track Review The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke
by Mark Corroto
Published: June 16, 2017
Read "Lovers" CD/LP/Track Review Lovers
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: September 13, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.