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December 2004

Jonathan Kreisberg
Nine Stories Wide
Criss Cross Jazz

According to the liners for Jonathan Kreisberg's second leader album, Nine Stories Wide (Criss Cross), the guitarist wants his six-string to sound like a piano. I'd urge him to just play piano if he weren't such a fascinating ax-man. Kreisberg hired great help for the record in drummer Larry Grenadier and bassist Bill Stewart, a duo that carves deep nooks and crannies into these nine originals and standards-who knew that the changes to "Summertime" still keep secrets? But it's Kreisberg's explorations of those crawl spaces that intrigue the most. He winds his slightly perky tone through ballads with lovely legato phrases and bounces through uptempo tunes. On Jule Styne's "Just in Time" he chases Grenadier's skittering ride cymbal, eventually catches up to strike a slightly muted chord as if to say "gotcha" and then sets off again to hunt down Stewart and his broad, woody tone.

Kreisberg also turns out to be a composer worthy of stacking his tunes next to those of Gershwin, Shorter ("Juju") and Lennon/McCartney (the trio gives "Michelle" maybe one of the best Beatles-gone-jazz treatments yet). Though his pen still drips ink left over from his days as a fusion-head in the '90s, Kreisberg's mind-bending melodies are just the sort of complement needed to round out a set of otherwise standard fare and create an album that never bores and begs for repeated spins.

Originally published in December 2004
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