From the Redwoods to the Rockies
Inspired by the forests and ancient legends of the West, guitarists Russ Freeman and Craig Chaquico team for From the Redwoods to the Rockies (Windham Hill Jazz; 45:05), a sweeping journey boasting rootsy and resonant acoustic textures with a bit of smooth jazz spit-and-polish. From Chaquico's touching, lightly arranged ballad "Seattle Child," to Freeman's striking harmonic music box piece, "Fallen Heroes," the music here is thoughtfully composed and expressively executed. Each player brings out unexpected strengths in the other-where "Tribal Runner," a brisk, mysterious piece, finds Freeman's rhythmic acoustic strums playing off Chaquico's lightly twisting lead, "Riders of the Ancient Winds" builds a heavily textured landscape around Freeman's signature smooth sound and Chaquico's warm, buoyant acoustic pluck. Crisp production helps the sparkling, West Coast textures leap to life. The only dips on the journey come in the form of urban smooth jazz detours-the synthesizer-washed, slickly funky Freeman composition "The Maiden and the Warrior" doesn't seem to fit, and some weird snaps momentarily derail the album's cinematic title track. But those tiny missteps are only minor annoyances on an otherwise memorable, inventive journey through the West.