Love & Paragraphs
There is no other way to put it: Chris Standring is the most underrated and underappreciated musician in contemporary jazz. His fifth CD in 10 years is like the others, full of catchy hooks, sublime electric guitar playing and a cohesive whole that fits just right (Standring is known for offering, for free on his Web site, seven to 10 songs that didn’t fit onto a particular album). If Standring made albums in the 1970s like George Benson, they’d be naming awards after him.
Love & Paragraphs continues the guitarist’s oeuvre, his improvisational jazz sensibilities built around perfectly crafted pop songs by way of his soul-blues background in the U.K. Only really hardcore Standring fans will notice that on about half of the songs, Standring trades his Benedetto archtop for a heavily stringed Fender Strat, giving him a boffo bluesy edge on songs like “As Luck Would Have It.” He creates pure pop pitch with subtle vocal shadings on the title track with Mary Cassidy and on “C.S. in the Sunshine,” with Standring and Jeff Robinson’s tandem “da-das” adding Manhattan Transfer-like seasoning. Better still is Standring’s frequent vocalization of “ooh bop” in the song of the same name, which offers grand guitar layering. Pure fun.
Injecting something a little different, Standring gets Frampton-like on “Have Your Cake and Eat It Too,” turning a fairly standard tune into one to remember by way of a talk-box solo. Standring could fill a whole CD with his chillish, downtempo asides, and he does it again with “Liquid Soul,” a wistful guitar run riding over a bass loop. His jazz background comes to the fore on “That’s What I Thought You Said” and “Reflection,” where he digs a little deeper on his ax, as well as on “Qu’est-ce Que Tu Fais,” where guest Jeff Lorber adds one of his killer-app Rhodes solos.