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Paul Bollenback: Portraits in Space and Time

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Portraits in Space and Time isn’t a live album, but Paul Bollenback makes a point of stressing that it’s deliberately structured like one. “This project was recorded almost exactly like the trio would play a gig,” writes the guitarist in his liner notes, “going from song to song with all the segues improvised on the spot, and on to the next tune.”

The no-breaks approach does bring to the experience a comprehensiveness that might not have been so evident had the tracks been separated by the usual pause. Bollenback, bassist Joseph Lepore and drummer/percussionist Rogerio Boccato quite often deviate from guitar-trio convention-the whole of “Jungle” appears to be a conversation between subtly struck percussion and what may or may not be Bollenback hammering on his strings with a small object-and it’s to their credit that they always find their way back to the same page with ease.

Bollenback isn’t a showy guitarist, but he’s a classy, technically adept player with a full book of influences to draw from (Wes, Burrell, Benson, Hendrix) and a clear, well-defined sound. Some tunes, like “Homecoming” and the “Swingin’ at Capones” finale, groove along with more oomph than others; some, like “Sunset,” “3 Days” and “Bird in the Sky,” are subdued and meditative. “Joseph” is all arco bass and “Call of the Spirits,” the two-minute opener, an alluring mini-raga. There’s plenty to savor as the trio goes through its paces, and listening to it non-stop as a piece, as its creators intended, is indisputably the best way to soak it all in.

Originally Published