MIC (Music in the Center)
Dynamics are critical to Czech-American guitarist Rudy Linka’s latest album, which is dominated by sneaky originals, a sharply tailored cover of Monk’s “Bye-Ya” (titled “Bay-Ya” here) and a quietly pulsating take on “So Weary,” a knowing tune by one of Linka’s mentors, John Abercrombie.
Linka’s predominantly single-note style is understated, and he uses atmospheric electronic effects sparingly. This is authoritatively executed chamber jazz, its hallmarks patience and persuasion more than projection. Still, taste and tension cohabit easily in this music, and the pretty never dominates the powerful. Linka has injected his own, skewed sense of harmonics into traditional forms like the spiritual (“How Spiritual Are You?” featuring bassist Larry Grenadier at his churchiest), ’70s folk-rock (“Song for Joni”) and the comforting folk tune (“By Our Farm,” glimmering with Jonathan Batiste’s pearly piano solo and drummer Kenny Wollesen’s brushwork).
A tune like the minimalist closer, “River,” suggests Linka is a perfectionist in search of the pure tone. By contrast, “Simply Put,” the opener, reveals a more impish side to the man; that title, along with that of “It’s Just That Easy,” betrays Linka’s careful approach and continental sense of irony.
A few tracks really pop amid all the even-handedness: the Monk cover and the album’s most accessible originals—“All the Reggae We Are,” the piquant “I Hear You” and the debonair “Club on the Corner.” Where many tracks succeed by virtue of Linka’s subtle interplay with his group, these are more dramatic, effectively alternating soft and loud passages to startle and please.