Jonathan Kreisberg: Shadowless

The very accomplished guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg has been gradually establishing his rep over the past decade. He’s released a string of potent recordings as a leader, and raised his profile through sideman work with B3 organ maestro Dr. Lonnie Smith. Kreisberg’s latest is a far cry from the smoky ambience of 2009’s serene Night Songs, his ballads collection on Criss Cross. Rather, this vibrant quintet offering is a return to the effervescence and drive of 2007’s The South of Everywhere, his second outing on Mel Bay Records.

Accompanied by a stellar New York crew featuring pianist Henry Hey, alto saxophonist Will Vinson, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Mark Ferber, Kreisberg spins cascading legato lines with a warm, Metheny-esque tone on invigorating originals like the urgent opener, “Twenty One”; the second-line-flavored “The Common Climb,” which has Kreisberg wailing using an electric sitar effect; and the lyrical title track, a bracing piano-guitar duet with Hey.

The versatile Ferber applies a sizzling drum-‘n’-bass beat to the frantic “Stir the Stars,” a vehicle for Vinson’s bold alto blowing. Kreisberg dials in just a touch of distortion to achieve more sustain on the gorgeous rubato ballad “Defying Gravity,” which is beautifully underscored by Ferber’s sensitive brushwork and coloristic touches on the cymbals.

Shadowless also includes a clever tempo-shifting interpretation of the George Gershwin nugget “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” as well as an intriguing interpretation of the traditional Greek melody “Zembékiko.” On the latter, the guitarist emulates bouzouki lines with his electronically tinged ax before the tune morphs into a hard-swinging boppish blowout. Another solid effort by a guitarist who has become one to watch on the New York scene.