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Ken Navarro: The Meeting Place

Trumpeter Chris Botti recently commented that, for many casual listeners, listening to jazz can be like taking a math test. Ken Navarro has no worries-his music is more like recess, and the guitarist would be the first to tell you that’s the way he wants it. There’s a reason why he named his record label Positive Music. Still, on his 17th recording, the guitarist is up challenging himself while still offering fans abundant opportunities to savor his sweet picking style. Navarro went back 30 years for his biggest test-a cover of Pat Metheny’s “Lakes” from his Watercolors album. Navarro glides through the tough chord changes with ease after no doubt many hours of practice, bringing beauty to a complex composition.

For the most part, however, Navarro’s songs are pleasant journeys made easy to listen to after more than 40 years of playing his instrument of choice, the nylon-string guitar. Longtime fans will notice that, in addition to the Metheny tune, The Meeting Place is much more of a guitarist’s record than previous efforts. On “Lucky” and “Just Like That,” for example, the band’s subtraction would leave solo recordings of a complex but dexterous fingerpicking style. And with “Did You Hear That?,” Navarro creates perhaps one of the most memorable tunes of his long career. Although it begins with an easy familiarity, it segues into extended electric guitar ruminations where Navarro slides and bends the strings, allowing the rock guitarist in his soul to come to the fore.

Originally Published