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Greg Pasenko: Something Old New Borrowed Blue

One can picture Greg Pasenko sitting in the corner of a restaurant, straining to be heard above the ambient noises, playing his acoustic guitar and handling all requests. He strikes me as being one who knows the words to every song written since the Tin Pan Alley days. Not surprisingly, his résumé, which would make a great book, culminates with founding his label, Blujazz. Equally unsurprising are the dozen Great American Songbook selections. Pasenko’s voice, with hints of Hoagy Carmichael and Mose Allison, graces each tune with intimacy and an awareness of its limitations. He compensates for awkward intervals and unreasonable demands on range with his personalized scat and clever maneuvers around the melodies, filling his own gaps with unexpected guitar licks.

Pasenko is co-arranger and co-producer with his wife, violinist Diane Delin, who did the string charts. The CD presents a well-balanced cross-section. The Jimi Hendrix classic “Little Wing” is cushioned by a string quartet. “Summertime” and “Embraceable You” are simply voice and guitar. “Over the Rainbow” and “My Romance” are vehicles for solo guitar, showing Pasenko’s gift for reharmonization. He challenges Monk with a stiff jazz vocal on “Well You Needn’t,” aided by bass and drums. Delin adopts the jazz idiom with “Alright, Okay, You Win,” doubling guitar in unison and harmony while contributing some valid jazz choruses. The album is heartfelt and enjoyable.

Originally Published