Guitarist Issi Rozen, a native of Israel now based in Boston, acquits himself with an appealing warm tone, a graceful touch and a sophisticated harmonic sense on his second outing as a leader. Yet another product of the Berklee College of Music (whose guitar department, under the direction of Jon Damian, churns out scores of such accomplished players each school year), Rozen swings well-enough and navigates his way through the changes with aplomb on standards like "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." And he burns with an understated intensity on his own "Outbound." But it's on the traditional Israeli melody "Shir Hanoded," recast here with a bit of jazzy bounce by the quartet, and the two Middle Eastern-flavored originals, "Erev" and "Homeland Blues," where Rozen really distinguishes himself from the hordes of other emerging talents on the scene.
You can hear traces of Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Jim Hall and Joe Pass throughout, but Rozen also sounds like he's in the process of developing his own thing. Homeland Blues shows some maturation from his engaging 1998 debut, Red Sea, though he's still playing it a tad cautious in the solo department. It would be interesting to hear him push the envelope a little further on the next one.