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Brent Laidler: Wouldn't Be Here Without You

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Brent Laidler: Wouldn't Be Here Without You
As we slip deeper into the twenty-first century, jazz is a very broad church indeed, an umbrella term referring to dozens of sub-genres and styles. Even with all those tags and labels at our disposal, however, sometimes an album can be a little hard to pigeonhole. Guitarist/arranger/composer Brent Laidler's latest album, Wouldn't Be Here Without You, seems simple enough to categorize at first: it is straight-ahead, small combo mainstream jazz, right? But listen a while and you'll discover that the label, while not inaccurate, is a bit misleading. There's what one might call a "bearable lightness of being" about the project, a refusal to dwell on the dark aspects of life, that makes it stand out from the furrow-browed stance so common to jazz today.

Laidler is a guitarist in the mainstream, pure-tone school of guitarists. No effects pedals or studio trickery, just the clear ringing tone familiar from Charlie Christian forward. His playing is not so much laid back as unruffled and sunny. He does not treat the album as a star turn, however, and in fact is a bit lower on the mix than typical for a leader. The frontline of Mark Buselli (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Ned Boyd (baritone and alto sax and flute) get quite as much solo space as the leader, and organist Jamie Newman is featured on most numbers as well.

Newman's organ is not greasy and overdriven but, in keeping with the vibe of the album, has a lighter sound. For older listeners, it may evoke "Walk Between the Raindrops" from Donald Fagen's solo debut. Another reference point for the album as a whole might be the soundtrack recordings by Henry Mancini. But make no mistake, Wouldn't Be Here Without You is a jazz album, a sixty-minute affair boasting ten tracks with plenty of room to roam. It's just that melodies and arrangements play a more important role than on many combo albums. The first three tracks, for instance, feature Boyd on flute, baritone sax, and alto sax respectively, which keeps the textures and moods varied.

Laidler has a knack (rare among jazzers) of writing hummable, memorable melodies. If you're looking for jazz that soothes and relaxes without ever tipping over into "lite" or "smooth" territory (or, heaven forfend, ASMR noodling), Wouldn't Be Here Without You should punch your ticket. And let's hear it for the evolutionary humor on the cover!

Track Listing

Keeping It Simple; Sunday Mood; You Ain’t the Bossa Me; A Second Chance; City by the Bay; Foo’s Blues; Walt’s Waltz; One More; Wouldn’t Be Here Without You; Pretty Little Bossa.

Personnel

Brent Laidler: guitar; Mark Buselli: trumpet; Ned Boyd: saxophone; Jamie Newman: organ, Hammond B3; C Scott Pazera: bass; Richard "Sleepy" Floyd: drums.

Album information

Title: Wouldn't Be Here Without You | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Self Produced

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