With the Wind and the Rain-- Joshua Breakstone

Joshua Breakstone's 20th album since 1983 stands out from the others with the inclusion of Mike Richmond's cello on four tracks, an idea inspired by the guitarist's late friend, bassist and promoter Mitsuru Nishiyama. During two of the most recent of Breakstone's 50 (!) tours to date of Japan, Nishiyama played cello with the guitarist's band. One of the strengths of this CD is Richmond's interaction with the trio of Breakstone, bassist Lisle Atkinson, and drummer Eliot Zigmund, and another is the leader's fascinating selection of tunes, including two by trumpeter Kenny Dorham, and one each by pianist George Cables and bassists Keter Betts, Oscar Pettiford, and Paul Chambers. Despite Breakstone's extensive discography and touring, he continues to fly somewhat below the radar in comparison to the more celebrated jazz guitarists, perhaps due to his rather deliberate, but never tentative, single-note style, where every note seems carefully assessed and chosen, and every appealing improvisation unfolds logically and lucidly, much like Kenny Burrell or Grant Green.

Betts' "Some Kinda Mean" has a slyly riffing theme that is shared by Breakstone and Richmond's cello to capativating effect. Breakstone's solo displays his attractive ringing tone, assured sense of development, and buoyant rhythmic feel. Richmond's response is nimbly executed and down-to-earth bluesy with striking vocal-like inflections. Atkinson then impresses with his richly resonant sound prior to the reprise. "I Told You So" is a piece its composer Cables used to play with Dexter Gordon, and its memorable melody is caressed by Breakstone before Richmond plucks out another highly focused, mesmerizing solo with superior chordal backing from the guitarist. Breakstone delves deeply into the tune's contours as well, with neatly copasetic encouragement from Atkinson and Zigmund. Dorham's "Short Story" ironically gets the longest treatment on the CD. Breakstone presents the by turns spiraling or spiky theme and goes on to astutely investigate each motif found within it with patient, subtle regard, as Atkinson and Zigmund maintain a low-keyed tension beneath him. Atkinson expands even more upon KD's line with authority, and Zigmund has a final impactful say pre-reprise.

Irving Gordon's "Be Anything" has been recorded by numerous singers ranging from Peggy Lee and Sarah Vaughan to Connie Francis and Queen Latifah. Breakstone's tender intro sets the mood, and as Zigmund launches a bossa nova rhythm the guitarist movingly unveils the theme, with Richmond's sympathetic lines enhancing his potency both here and throughout the following vividly constructed gem of a solo. The percolating head of Pettiford's "LaVerne Walk" is handled in graceful unison by Breakstone, Atkinson, and Richmond. The guitarist's effervescent solo receives top-notch support from bass and drums, and is succeeded by rewarding, highly communicative improvs by Atkinson and Richmond, seemingly on each other's wavelengths in terms of sound and substance. The second Dorham entry on the CD, "La Villa," bears some similarity to the previous "Short Story," and is certainly just as inspiring to musicians who choose to play it. Breakstone renders the theme with great clarity and proceeds to blister his way through an up tempo solo of sustained, fresh creativity, in which even a quote from "Jingle Bells" fits wonderfully. His trades with a rambunctious Zigmund are an added attraction, as is Atkinson's pulsating accompaniment for the duration, and the leader's additional chorus leading up to his recap, where he cleverly inserts a snippet of "Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise."

Breakstone's inventive intro to "The Very Thought of You" segues oh-so-smoothly into Ray Noble's melody, with the apt motif from the opening wisely inserted. Breakstone's relaxed solo is more of a dialogue between himself and Atkinson's lively insights. The masterful bassist then stretches out to further elaborate upon the standard's thematic and harmonic qualities. Guitar and cello engagingly perform the winding staccato theme of Chambers' "Visitation," with Breakstone inventing intricate boppish phrases in his subsequent extended solo, which is lifted by the engine that could, namely Atkinson-Zigmund. Richmond develops a brisk statement characterized by a persistent, attuned momentum, and he and Atkinson seamlessly exchange their thoughts in advance of the final concise summation. The title tune and closer, "With the Wind and the Rain in Your Hair" (Clara Edwards / Jack Lawrence) is a 1930 tune recorded previously by the likes of Bob Crosby, Pat Boone, Tal Farlow, and Stan Getz, and the infrequently played piece is shown to have been a wise choice based on what the trio is able to achieve. Breakstone's penetrating, crystalline guitar is perfectly suited to the melody, and his exuberant, dancing exploration, and trades with the sensitively aligned Zigmund never fail to hold one's attention.

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Scott Albin