Saturday, June 05, 2021

Joel Harrison - Guitar Talk (AGS Recordings, 2021)

The newest collection from guitarist Joel Harrison is an album of close up duet recordings with some of his favorite fellow guitarists, Ben Monder, Steve Cardenas, Pete McCann, David Gilmore, and electric bassist Steve Swallow. He wrote short melodic songs that would allow the guitarists plenty of room to engage and improvise. The music is quite pithy and thoughtful, not nearly the shredding competition you might expect when a bunch of guitarists get together. This made clear on the beginning track "It Falls on You" where Harrison, Cardenas and Monder create a tranquil, gentle guitar ballad, where the music develops a sense of calm and peace. "Saturday Night With Vic," a dedication to Vic Juris, sees Harrison and McCann up the ante just a bit, creating a medium tempo weaving together of two guitars, in an intricate mesh like fashion. Ben Monder joins in for "Autumn in Olivebridge" where his unique style of spare guitar with effects really stands out. The guitarists develop sharper notes playing against space and time, adding snarls for dynamic range for texture. "Rebound" is another track with Pete McCann, where one guitarist develops a rhythmic foundation while the other extrapolates, nod to early jazz guitar duos but in a modernized manner. Surprisingly enough "Song for Steve Swallow" welcomes the famous bass guitarist, and he and Harrison unite to create a clam and thoughtful performance for guitar and bass, with nice well integrated interaction. Monder returns for "Winter Solstice" which definitely affirms the cold vibe, with icy chords and notes still retains momentum and pacing, under Monder's distinctive laser like focus. With bass guitarist Steve Swallow, on "I'm Still Asking the Question" Harrison is able to create a crisper sound with bass guitar and the performance has a Bill Frisell like mysterious alt-Americana bent. Jazz guitarist David Gilmore leans into darker bluesier sounds juxtaposed against brighter chords, trading off, waxing and waning, threatening to break out. with great tight interplay, between the instrumentalists. The final solo piece, is Harrison's take on "America the Beautiful" creating light sparks of sound in space, using some startling electronics to fill out the soundstage, playing aside and around the pedals in a very interesting fashion. All tracks were recorded with two amps in a room, no overdubs so it is pretty hard to get more intimate than this. The musicians play very well and with remarkable restraint, leading to a melodic and graceful album that should be attractive to fellow guitarists and jazz fans as a whole. Guitar Talk - bandcamp

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