Tom Guarna: Rush

The title of New York guitarist-composer Tom Guarna’s sixth recording alludes to the rush of creativity and excitement that provides the impetus for these eight new compositions. Ranging from fiery to elegiac, the material is interpreted by a formidable, tight group consisting of Danny Grissett on piano and Fender Rhodes, Joel Frahm on soprano and tenor saxophones, bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Johnathan Blake.

The title track kicks off the album with fierce energy: Following Guarna’s infectious opening riff the quintet launches into the tune’s intricate, driving melody, the leader’s solo showcasing his fluidity and warm, sometimes gravely tone. The ballad “Dreamland,” featuring a swinging section and a spiraling upper-resister solo by Frahm, takes the listener to that point on the brink between wakefulness and sleep. “Elegy for Etan” is dedicated to Etan Kalil Patz, who disappeared in Manhattan in 1978 at the age of 6, as many New Yorkers of that era remember well.

The harrowing nature of this event is captured in the naïve, innocent melody presented by Guarna, juxtaposed with the ominous atmosphere created by Grissett and Blake. “Movement and Repose” refers to the structure of the tune, with momentary calm nestled in between the opening of the piece, marked by shifting tonal centers, and its propulsive closing statement. As throughout, Guarna shines on “Forgiveness,” tracing the emotional journey that leads to ultimately letting go.