Like a minor fusion deity, guitarist Tony Purrone can unravel burbling strings of notes up and down the fretboard, but he also has a bit of the Burrell in him, gravitating toward harmonically rich chordal improvisation, stacking chord against chord against chord. He plays with a pinched tone, and will bend and distort notes; but just as often Purrone slips in bluesy double-stops or gentle, classic-jazz guitar single-note runs. He also delves into momentary atmospherics, letting open strings ring out alongside fingered ones in chords that are given plenty of decay time. It may sound like a scattered or ostentatious approach, but on The Tonester the guitarist manages to make it all sound organic. With an admirable sense for moderation and a flair for shooting sparks, Purrone combines just the right amounts of grit and harmonic sophistication.
Purrone's tasteful playing complements his interesting choices in tunes on this CD-two Shorters and a Hancock alongside one from Carla Bley, Strayhorn's "U.M.M.G." and a Jan Hammer, to name a few. Playing with his regular trio, including drummer Thierry Arpino and bassist Dave Anderson, Purrone really digs into the tunes; his improvisations are packed with harmonic information. Arpino's busy drumming plus Anderson's electric bass give Purrone a muscular foundation, which suits the guitarist just fine. Purrone does run short of ideas a few times, resorting to repeated patterns up and down the neck. He also gets a little carried away with his chordal accompaniment occasionally and can weight down a melodic line. But overall, The Tonester is a very enjoyable, creative effort that peaks on Bley's "Sing Me Softly of the Blues," where Purrone kicks up plenty of dust.