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Saga Gitane Guitars

Arguably no other jazz guitarist has been so blatantly imitated as Django Reinhardt, the Belgian Gypsy whose acoustic work from the mid-1930s to the early 1940s has attained virtual cult status. And while he died in 1953, his spirit lives on, witnessed by the presence of Gypsy jazz in feature films like Sweet and Lowdown … Read More “Saga Gitane Guitars”

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Gary Bartz/Peter Leitch: The Montreal Concert

Guitar/saxophone duos are rare in the jazz world, primarily due to the difficulty of keeping everything moving without having the bottom fall out when it comes time for the guitarist to improvise. One successful recorded example was the Zoot Sims/Joe Pass match up Blues for Two (Pablo, 1982), but then Pass had years of experience … Read More “Gary Bartz/Peter Leitch: The Montreal Concert”

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Russell Malone: Heartstrings

In ways reminiscent of some of Wes Montgomery’s recordings for the same label over 30 years ago, this disc has all the attributes of a commercial jazz product aimed at a broad audience-from its moody cover photo to its title to the choice of material to the lush string arrangements by Johnny Mandel, Dori Caymmi … Read More “Russell Malone: Heartstrings”

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Peter Almqvist: My Sound

This album, devoted to jazz standards for the most part, features Swedish guitarist Almqvist in a series of unaccompanied solos and overdubbed duets. An accomplished player, Almqvist has a great deal of facility and fluidity. But overdubbing offers its own share of challenges, and his admirable traits tend to get lost over the course of … Read More “Peter Almqvist: My Sound”

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John Leitham/Jimmy Bruno: Two for the Road

A gathering of old friends, this recording features acoustic bassist John Leitham and guitarist Jimmy Bruno who first met in Philly and later worked together in L.A. with the late great studio guitarist Tommy Tedesco, whose son, Damon, happens to have engineered this project. From the opener, Charles Mingus’ “Nostalgia in Times Square,” Leitham does … Read More “John Leitham/Jimmy Bruno: Two for the Road”

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Chris Bergson: Wait For Spring

Here emerging guitarist Bergson leads his trio through a mix of standards and originals (the tracks are split between two different bassists, Neal Miner and Chris Berger; trumpeter Greg Glassman and drummer Joe Strasser sit in on selected numbers). Bergson’s forte is shaping smooth, melodic lines, something that makes him most effective at ballad and … Read More “Chris Bergson: Wait For Spring”

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Paul Brusger: You Oughta Know It

The instrumental talents and compositions of rising bassist Paul Brusger are featured on this disc, which is also graced by the presence of trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, saxophonist George Allgaier, pianist Dado Moroni and drummer John Jenkins. Inspired by the great Paul Chambers, Brusger has rock-solid time, accurate intonation and formidable technique, all of which serve … Read More “Paul Brusger: You Oughta Know It”

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Larry Carlton/Steve Lukather: No Substitutions: Live in Osaka

Recently launched by rock-guitar maven Steve Vai, the Favored Nations label specializes (for the moment, anyway) in progressive electric instrumental music and has already issued recordings by the likes of Frank Gambale, Eric Johnson, Stuart Hamm and Dweezil Zappa. On No Substitutions: Live In Osaka two guitar heavyweights-Larry Carlton and Steve Lukather-go mano a mano … Read More “Larry Carlton/Steve Lukather: No Substitutions: Live in Osaka”

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Philip Catherine: Blue Prince

One of top jazz guitarists on the far side of the Atlantic, Belgium’s Philip Catherine has worked with the likes of Jean-Luc Ponty and Larry Coryell. Here he puts his quartet-populated by very capable mix of European musicians-through its paces by means of an eclectic combination of originals and standards. Catherine works through his progressive … Read More “Philip Catherine: Blue Prince”

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Mark Elf Trio: Live at Smalls

This New York-based guitarist makes no bones about being a dyed-in-the-wool bebopper. Recorded 1995 but released only recently, Live at Smalls finds Elf in a trio setting with support provided by drummer Joe Strausser and bassist Neal Miner. And while the performances have a few rough edges, Elf pretty much smokes from the get go … Read More “Mark Elf Trio: Live at Smalls”

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Mark Elf: Swingin’

This New York-based guitarist makes no bones about being a dyed-in-the-wool bebopper. Considerably well polished in terms of performance and sound, the material on Swingin’ was recorded in the middle of last year. Powered by bassist Robert Hurst and drummer Winard Harper (pianist Aaron Goldberg appears on two tracks), Elf turns in an impressive performance. … Read More “Mark Elf: Swingin’”

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David Friesen with Clark Terry and Bud Shank: Three to get Ready

Recorded live in Berlin in 1994, this performance brings together three adventurous musicians-bassist Friesen, trumpeter Clark Terry and altoist Bud Shank-in a trio setting whose instrumentation is as unusual as its results are compellingly full of bright, magical moments. With Friesen creatively anchoring the program of mostly standards, the three combine in every conceivable way … Read More “David Friesen with Clark Terry and Bud Shank: Three to get Ready”

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Dave Goldberg/Duane Allen Quintet: When Time Approaches

This youthful Florida-based quartet-co-led by saxophonist Goldberg and guitarist Allen-taps the talents of veteran drummer Adam Nussbaum on their second release, devoted to original compositions. The tunes themselves offer few surprises, just nice grooves and well-honed melodies and chord changes designed for blowing. On some numbers, the guitar’s distorted tone seems a bit out of … Read More “Dave Goldberg/Duane Allen Quintet: When Time Approaches”

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Ken Hatfield: DYAD

Think of this album’s title as referring to Hatfield’s compositions, which tend to be grounded in either Django-tinged swing or lilting Brazilian feels. And while that combination that may be a bit incongruous in more than one respect, his guitar work, which employs fingerstyle technique on a nylon-string instrument, is highly fluid and fluent. Backed … Read More “Ken Hatfield: DYAD”

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Al Di Meola and World Sinfonia: The Grande Passion

Since his high-energy exploits in the mid-’70s, Di Meola has proved himself to be a gifted progressive guitarist and composer, from his adventurous use of the guitar synthesizer to pieces for solo guitar and forays into world music, which includes a special interest in the music of Argentinean tango legend Astor Piazzolla. His latest recording … Read More “Al Di Meola and World Sinfonia: The Grande Passion”

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Frank Wess/Frank Vignola: Without a Doubt

The material on Without a Doubt is broad in scope as it finds versatile bassist Mark Egan tastefully holding down the bottom end. Wess blows some exceptionally nice figures on his two originals: “Sumpin’ Went Wrong,” a lightly swinging number, and “Pretty Is,” an easy-going blues. Pace and mood changes are provided by Ascione’s brisk … Read More “Frank Wess/Frank Vignola: Without a Doubt”

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Frank Portolese: Last Call

This Chicago-based guitarist plays straightahead jazz with more than a few twists. First there’s his somewhat eccentric, bright but compressed-sounding tone, which has a decidedly retro vibe. Then there are the sometimes-disjointed phrases that he manages to keep in the air like a juggler lofting a combination of ping-pong and bowling balls. It all contrasts … Read More “Frank Portolese: Last Call”

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Charlie Byrd: For Louis

When Charlie Byrd passed away at the end of 1999, he left a unique legacy that included having played instrumental roles in helping introduce the nylon-string guitar to jazz and bossa nova to North America. Although he enjoyed a great deal of popularity over the course of his lengthy career, his versatility, which encompassed classical, … Read More “Charlie Byrd: For Louis”

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Kevin Breit/ Cyro Baptista: Supergenerous

If you have an open mind connected to equally open ears, then you’re likely to dig the sounds produced by this international duo. Throughout, Canadian guitarist Breit wields a variety of acoustics and electrics, while Brazilian percussionist Baptista manipulates an array of instruments. The results range from atmospheric to quirky to downright wacky and draw … Read More “Kevin Breit/ Cyro Baptista: Supergenerous”

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Blaise Siwula Trio: Dialing Privileges

Blaise Siwula is a 50ish saxophonist with a penchant for edgy honking and squawking, which makes him a perfect foil for Dom Minasi, who wields a 12-string guitar on Dialing Privileges. Here the sound is a bit better than that of the aforementioned recording, which makes it easier to take the all-out chaotic blowing episodes … Read More “Blaise Siwula Trio: Dialing Privileges”

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Ron Affif: Solotude

Ron Affif arguably can be described as an ensemble-oriented musician, one who thrives on spontaneity and interplay-both of which can be hard to come by in a solo setting. Nevertheless, he prevails on Solotude by playing what he feels rather than being overly concerned with style and method. Overall, he takes a straightforward approach that … Read More “Ron Affif: Solotude”

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Gene Bertoncini: Body and Soul

Gene Bertoncini-who plays the nylon-string acoustic guitar with his fingers, a situation ideally suited for solo work-creates sounds that are refined, elegant, and complex. His playing works a tune from the inside, fully exploring its harmonic, melodic, and textural implications much like a classical composer develops an idea on paper. While most of the material … Read More “Gene Bertoncini: Body and Soul”

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Jackie King: Moon Magic

Jackie King, a multi-faceted guitarist and long-time associate of country maverick Willie Nelson, knows how to have fun and make fine music at the same time. On Moon Magic, which features bass and drums, he approaches this celestial set of standards with a sense of humor, a dash of creativity and a healthy serving of … Read More “Jackie King: Moon Magic”

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Paul Abler: In the Marketplace

Guitarist Paul Abler, a native of Detroit, leads his quartet (powered by the propulsive drumming of Cindy Blackman) through a set of sophisticated originals that necessarily give his work a more serious, hungrier edge. Throughout, he fluidly wields his instrument, seamlessly moving from one phrase and episode to the next, although the busier ensemble context … Read More “Paul Abler: In the Marketplace”

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Gary Wittner: Roadway

Gary Wittner, a Berklee graduate who specializes in playing Thelonious Monk on guitar, intersperses his album with originals and highly quirky solo acoustic guitar readings of country and folk tunes. Although the music is exceptionally well played (with the occasional support of bass-clef specialist Howard Johnson) and often fascinating, the net result is a vibe … Read More “Gary Wittner: Roadway”

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Hot Club USA: Django Lives

Headed by Uruguayan violinist Federico Britas and guitarist Frank Vignola, this tribute group also features guitarist Eric Bogart, bassist Phil Flanagan, and guest percussionists Joe Ascione and Tootie. Virtually unknown outside of his homeland, 58-year-old Britas swings hard and does justice to Grappelli’s memory even as he works in his own flexible phrases (“I Found … Read More “Hot Club USA: Django Lives”

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