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Earl Klugh: The Spice of Life

Welcome back! It’s been a while for Earl Klugh fans, who no doubt were impressed by his Naked Guitar solo CD in 2005 but are sure to dig his first full-production work since 1999. It’s a keeper, a beauty of an album that will warm the hearts of fans of Klugh’s melodic instrumental magic on the nylon guitar. It’s an amalgam of classic pop-jazz, solo pieces and even light orchestral backing, but it’s all held together by Klugh’s sweet tones.

The classic tunes are represented by the light bossa of “Ocean Blue,” the emotionally tender “Driftin’,” the playful “Lucy” that Klugh named for his beloved pooch, and especially “Sleepy Head.” The latter is a new Klugh classic, joining “Midnight in San Juan” and “Moonlight Dancing” with its catchiness. The guitarist goes back to his Detroit roots with “Snap!,” its funky rhythm supported by poppin’ bass lines, horns and snappy organ runs. Fans of Naked Guitar will enjoy the solo pieces, “The Toy Guitar” and especially “Venezuelan Nights,” which Klugh wrote in the style of one of his heroes, the late Venezuelan guitar legend Antonio Lauro.

Don Sebesky, a longtime collaborator, handles orchestral arrangements for several tunes, including “Morning Drive,” a bossa take on Thelonious Monk’s “Bye-Ya,” the retro-cool “C’est Si Bon,” the classic “Canadian Sunset” and with the standard “My Foolish Heart,” with this version instantly becoming the one to beat in the contemporary jazz canon. Eddie Horst directs the spare chamber accompaniment on the Klugh original “Heart of My Life.”

If this is what a nine-year absence leads to, I can’t wait until 2017.

Originally Published