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Jeff Richman & Chatterbox: The Line Up

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A solo recording artist since 1986, Los Angeles-based guitarist Jeff Richman is nonetheless best known as L.A.’s top fusion cover artist for a decade’s worth of arrangements and playing on all-star guitar tributes on Mike Varney’s Tone Center label. Perhaps understandably, Richman has had more trouble finding his own sound as a composer and player-until now. The Line Up, by the guitarist and his band Chatterbox, may be the most cohesive statement he’s made among 16 solo CDs.

A mid-tempo opening title track and the introspective ballad “Window to the Heart” start the disc off tentatively, but Richman, keyboardist Mitchel Forman, bassist Dean Taba and drummer Joel Taylor don’t take long to shed the safety net. “Rule of Thumb” starts and ends with a stuttered rhythmic cadence, but a surprising middle gospel rave-up features stellar solos by Forman (on piano) and Richman. The shifting rock-to-blues sections of “Hat Trick,” plus the lighter, sashaying “Cross My Heart,” allow Richman to display diverse influences like former teacher Pat Metheny and former Berklee classmate Mike Stern.

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