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Andy Brown: Soloist

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When programming the selection of tunes on his latest CD, Soloist, Chicago-based guitarist Andy Brown couldn’t have chosen a more enticing opener than his fingerstyle take on “Dancing in the Dark.” Or a more telling one, for it certainly suggests pleasures to come.

Introducing the standard with an articulate and elegant touch, Brown crafts a consistently alluring performance. The rubato opening, the artful embellishments, the sleek improvisations, the subtle comping, the sparkling harmonics that light up the coda: All add to this opening cut’s lyricism and charm-so much so, in fact, that there are times when the familiar refrain, or a light-fingered variation, seems to be dancing in mid-air.

Brown counts Kenny Poole, Ted Greene, Cal Collins and Lenny Breau among his many inspirations, and their influence, whether subtle or striking, is felt throughout the album. Case in point: “Tango El Bongo,” a winning salute to its composer, the late seven-string guitar legend George Van Eps. Its title notwithstanding, the tune is a showcase for serious musicianship. Following the master’s lead, Brown adroitly shades or punctuates the now sunny, now soulful theme with basslines and chordal tints.

Apart from a robust take on George Wallington’s “Godchild,” this is strictly a fingerstyle affair, brimming with pop and jazz classics. Yet Brown’s nimble dexterity and an abundance of imaginative, mostly off-the-cuff arrangements keep things interesting. Of course, when you’re dealing with a solo jazz guitar album that features romantic Latin excursions and a wonderfully evocative reprise of the Gene Krupa-Roy Eldridge swing anthem “Drum Boogie,” perhaps that goes without saying.

Originally Published