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December 2006

Gordon Grdina/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian
Think Like the Waves
Songlines

Gordon Grdina is a Vancouver-based guitarist who also performs on the oud, or Arabic lute. On his debut release, Think Like the Waves, he teams up with his mentor Gary Peacock on bass and Paul Motian on drums. The 14 tracks are all Grdina originals, three of which—“Renunciation,” “Morning Moon” and the title track—feature the oud in an enticing modern jazz setting. On guitar, Grdina has a dry, unadorned sound and a sparse yet weighty attack that brings Jim Hall to mind. His themes often combine straightforward triads and dissonant clusters in a single phrase, all in the service of a clear melody. The prevailing ambience is one of dark mystery, but the ruggedness of Grdina’s tone makes for a palette of rich contrast.

Apart from the opening minor-key waltz “Yellow Spot Into the Sun” and the alert 4/4 of “Combustion,” Grdina’s pieces tend toward mournful rubato reflection—“Different Places,” “Ginger Root” and “Cobble Hill” are good examples. On “Platform” and “String Quartet #6” he taps into a more agitated free-jazz feeling. “Distant” and “Albert the Monk” are satisfying jazz ballads. “Strathcona,” a guitar/bass duet, brings the album to a contemplative close.

Originally published in December 2006
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