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Matt Marshak: On the Rocks

Guitarist Matt Marshak has put it all together on his fourth solo CD, a consistently surprising brand of buff and satisfying smooth jazz that’s both accessible and adventurous. You’ll agree after hearing the first four songs in order: “Space Coastin’,” a bouncy acoustic guitar treat; “On the Rocks,” a unique bass-driven blend of downtempo and traditional jazz; “Hangin’ at Humphrey’s,” an ode to the famous San Diego venue with a slow shuffle and Larry Carlton-like electric riffs; and “Brotherhood,” a slice of instrumental pop that builds into its inescapably hummable chorus. Marshak is tipping his hand to the joys of variety and for keeping things musically interesting.

Marshak takes a chance on Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” a low-key acoustic rocker that comes in two versions, one showcasing his vocals, the other a radio-friendly instrumental track. He succeeds on the latter, spinning his own interpretation of an oft-heard classic. Elsewhere, Marshak digs into his love of the blues with “Chuck’s Groove” and “Sierra Sunset,” while returning, on the last three tracks, to the downtempo with the spare “Life Is a Mystery,” “Bratislava Bop” and the incredibly gorgeous “West Coast Stranger.”

One of the year’s best guitar smooth-jazz CDs, for sure.

Originally Published