Versatile guitarist Lou Volpe is an ace picker who adeptly straddles jazz and blues while sounding authentic and at home in each. That chameleonic quality is best represented by the track “Coltrane of Thought,” which opens with an earthy string-bending motif that sounds like it could go the way of an Allman Brothers or Lynyrd Skynyrd throwdown. But before long Volpe and his crew of stellar session veterans (pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs, bassist Bob Cranshaw, drummer Buddy Williams) pivot on a dime and briskly navigate their way through a labyrinth of “Giant Steps” changes. The bright, samba-flavored opener, “Astral Island,” carries a hint of Eric Gale’s pleasing but urgently blues-tinged phrasing, while Gumbs’ churchy comping and soloing recalls Gale’s partner in Stuff, pianist Richard Tee. The title track is a buoyant number that demonstrates the guitarist’s penchant for melodic improvisation while also highlighting the indelibly swinging hookup between Cranshaw and Williams.
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