Well known for his work with Spyro Gyra and bassist John Patitucci, guitarist Jay Azzolina is clearly in a mood to stretch out on Local Dialect, and Patitucci’s participation is certainly welcome.
Indeed, while most of the music here was conceived when Azzolina was experimenting with drum loops, the contributions made by Patitucci, drummer Greg Hutchinson and percussionist Cyro Baptista are key to this session’s appeal, along with some atmospheric horn charts featuring reedman Tim Ries, trombonist Mike Davis and trumpeter Scott Wendholt. The album’s biggest rewards, however, come when organist Larry Goldings is part of the lineup, particularly on the album’s closing tracks, the sleek blues “Mind Your Mind” and the more animated organ- combo update “Exit Strategy.” On most of the uptempo tracks, Azzolina’s fluid single-note runs and obvious affection for boppish intervals, combined with the rhythm section’s smooth thrust, never suggest the use of a computer-generated template. The frequent shifts in mood and setting are also a big plus, though “Angel’s Dance,” a duet that teams the guitarist with Baptista, easily trumps the drum-programmed “Acceptance,” which comes across as a session afterthought.
No doubt Spyro Gyra’s fanbase will find some of Local Dialect to its liking: the shimmering ballad “Sofia’s Eyes,” for example, or, better yet, the slinky funk outing “Smile for Me.” After all, the latter track, with its unflagging backbeat, is nothing if not accessible. But from the album’s outset it’s obvious that catering to listeners’ expectations isn’t a top priority for Azzolina this time around.