Scott DuBois doesn’t just play guitar; he’s a sound sculptor. With meticulous attention to detail and an eye toward improvisation, the Chicago-based guitarist has made his mark in the jazz world over the last decade-and-a-half, highlighted by two albums as leader that included saxophonist Dave Liebman, plus a fruitful stint on the Sunnyside label.
The past several years have seen DuBois further up the adventurous ante with his “seasons” project, an attempt to capture sounds that evoke the changing seasons. On the first two installments, Winter Light (2015) and Autumn Wind (2017), he and colleagues Gebhard Ullmann (tenor saxophone and bass clarinet), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Kresten Osgood (drums) deftly laid out both a textural quietude and unsettling sonics. His newest effort, Summer Water, continues the theme—but this time without the band. Instead, DuBois is toting only his guitar, and the bracing effect he achieves equals, if not surpasses, the impact of a full ensemble.
Taking inspiration from his Chicago home’s view of Lake Michigan, DuBois composed these 11 sinuous and feathery pieces not in summer, but during the dead of winter. Much like a river’s ebb and flow, they surge with forward momentum, swell with flying colors, and lull with introspection. Remarkably, this happens without DuBois hopping on a row of effects pedals, piling on overdubs, or employing loops. His solitary approach—often quiet, occasionally abrasive, always atmospheric, sometimes symphonic—conjures up soundworlds that wouldn’t be out of place on the ECM label.
Intricate but free-floating meditations such as the slow-moving “Into River Fog,” “River Driftwood,” and “Sea Before the Storm” are new-agey goodness. DuBois also has no problem cranking it up and shredding, as on the jazzy “Summer Light on Rushing River.” Summer Water is a solo guitar clinic to behold.