Its title notwithstanding, Heavy Artillery has far more to do with finesse than firepower, something that’s evident from the opening track, a slyly unfolding, effortlessly swinging rendition of “Louisiana.”
Lest anyone need further proof that guitarists Howard Alden and Andy Brown—mentor and protégé, respectively—are inspired by their rhythm tandem (bassist Joe Policastro and drummer Bob Rummage) and the relaxed studio setting, the balance of the album offers seven additional selections that elegantly underscore ensemble chemistry and intuitive guitar interplay. There is a pair of guitar duets, too. The last, a woven interpretation of “If Dreams Come True,” is as spry as it is delightful, arranged in ways that showcase nimble exchanges and contrapuntal designs.
The colorfully varied tune selection is also a big plus. Alden and Brown never seem at a loss when it comes to refreshing a vintage tune, familiar or not. Both players excel at melodic embellishment, and when shifting from lead to rhythmic roles, as they often do, the transitions are seamless. One after another, pieces composed by Clark Terry (“Chuckles”), Thad Jones (“Three and One”), Antonio Carlos Jobim (“Brigas Nunca Mais”), Don Redman (“No One Else But You”), Django Reinhardt (the album’s title track) and, not least, Red Norvo/Tal Farlow (“I Brung You Finjans for Your Zarf”) are imaginatively recast and revived by the quartet—so much so, in fact, that the absence of original material is never an issue.