Jacques Lesure: Swinging Jazz Guitar from Atlanta to Los Angeles

Ed Hamilton reports on CD release party for the guitarist at the Crowne Plaza in Los Angeles

Eight years ago Jacques Lesure showcased his guitar prowess at the 10/20 Lounge of the Hotel Brasserie in West Hollywood with the Cross-Hart Trio. We had just met at Russell Malone’s engagement at Ruth Price’s Jazz Bakery. He had come to see his Atlanta homeboy as I had been invited by my jazz journalist longtime friend Tony Cox to hear Malone (whom I had met in Montreal when he was with Diana Krall). Our paths again crossed recently and the location was the Crowne Plaza Hotel Lounge for his CD Release Party and he was joined by the extraordinary rhythm section of Eric Reed on piano, Willie Jones III on drums and Mark Gurrola on bass.

A wonderful first set unveiled the title song “When She Smiles I Know”—a lush, melodic ballad dedicated to his wife Kimberly. Lesure’s guitar strumming simulated sensitive fingers singing through his strings.

“Sonnymoon For Two” swung into a swift boppish interpretation of Sonny Rollins with Lesure’s Gibson and Reed’s brilliant comping, Jones’ masterful drumming and Gurrola’s solid bass bottom. As Jackie McLean once said it: Swing, Swang and Swung.

The group softly segued to a Samba intermezzo “Gregory Is Here” written by Horace Silver for his son Gregory. Gurrola’s bass softly blended with the long time L.A. schooled Jones and Reed all flowing with Lesure’s Brazilian tinged playing.

Lesure continued the groove with an 1950’s Carl Perkins composition “Grooveyard” made famous by Harold Land. A mellow Reed undercurrent piano introduction straddling Lesure’s staccatoed bodywork brought back reminisces of Land and Perkins’ West Coast Cool. Reed’s solo resurrected the swinging shadow of Perkins’ strident ivory melodics as well as Jones and Gurrola’s sensuous cool jamming drums and bottom line bassing.

Closing out the set, Lesure played the familiar Miles Davis tune Blue and Green from the legendary album Kind of Blue. Poignantly displayed in a Brubeck Blue Rhondo Ala Turk tempo--- but softly.

A great CD release party that immediately sent me home to hear and listen to what hadn’t been played, including: I Didn’t Know What Time It Was; Without a Song; Time After Time; I Remember You.

When She Smiles I Know was produced by drummer Willie Jones III. He most definitively has a great producer career ahead that may cut into his drumming prowess. A tremendous assortment of original and standard music artfully comprise the guitar sounds of Jacques Lesure, who I’m sure was inspired by three masterful mentors: Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, and Kenny Burrell.

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Ed Hamilton