In the jazz guitar world, there’s a small army of wildly innovative six-stringers who are stylistically all over the map, many of them leaning into experimental sounds using a bevy of dizzying effects. Nylon-string guitarist Benji Kaplan isn’t one of them. Turns out he doesn’t need a pedalboard to achieve maximum emotional response. As heard on recent recordings such as Benji & Rita and Chorando Sete Cores, Kaplan is an exquisite player who sculpts elegant, cinematic landscapes imbued with Brazilian, classical, chamber-music, and traditional jazz elements. He continues his mastery of moods, patterns, and textures on this solo set.
The warmth and intimacy of the eight pieces here enliven what serves as an homage to Tin Pan Alley. Reinterpreting standards by beloved composers like Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Jerome Kern, and Rodgers & Hart, Kaplan shows his fingerpicking command; the fine layers and rich details he weaves give the impression of multiple overdubbed guitars.
Deconstructing the Great American Songbook is an undertaking for which Kaplan is well-suited. His roots—born to Cuban and Austrian parents—and his intrepid explorations into New York, Central European, Latino, and Brazilian sounds bring a new sheen to these oh-so-familiar tunes. The intricate, unpredictable twists and turns he applies to classics like Porter’s “Anything Goes” and Lerner & Loewe’s “If Ever I Would Leave You” provide a 21st-century modernity that makes Something Here Inside a delightful listen, with just the right touch of unconventionality.