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Frank Portolese: Last Call

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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 and conflicts with his penchant for long, fluid lines. Whether he’s taking a grooving approach to a tune like “Milestones” or rendering a moody ballad like “Virgo,” his ability to develop intriguing phrases, which use space instead of fill it, carries the day. Portolese also has a knack for picking material, most of which is mainstream with a hard-bop bent. “Burn Unit,” an original, however, introduces an element of craziness as it moves from pointillistic interaction with the rhythm section to frantic, blistering blowing. Two different but capable supporting groups are featured throughout, except on the title track, a soulful free-flowing blues sans accompaniment.

While Portolese has mannerisms that most guitarists would try to lose in the woods as quickly as possible, he integrates them into a fresh, unique voice. Dig it: The guy’s on to something.