Beyond the New York City Limits
Rudy Linka’s guitar playing has been compared to that of his former teacher John Abercrombie, so one might be hard-pressed to tell one guitarist from the other on the four tracks here that feature both men. They double the melodies, harmonize, trade licks and comp gracefully on tracks like “Now We Dance (Remix),” where Kenny Wollesen (drums) and Dan Fabricatore (drums) add an understated groove that gives them an appropriate bounce.
Linka, who has a warm, mid-range tone to his playing, gets a good deal of leverage from the rhythm section, in fact. They spice up “Just Around the Block” and “What Does the Size Have to Do With It?” with a little bit of funk and a reggae backbeat, respectively. These styles can be dangerous territory that invites jazz players to oversimplify, but the trio handles it with good taste. Elsewhere “Loose Blues” and “Fast Swing,” the latter with Abercrombie back onboard, appropriately earn their titles.
The album ends with two tracks that reunite the Czech guitarist with other collaborators. Joni Mitchell’s “California” rejoins Linka with bassist Mike Formanek and drummer Bill Stewart. Bassist George Mraz joins Linka’s acoustic guitar on a 1997 recording of the original “How Spiritual Are You?” to close out an album full of subtle surprises.