Ralf Illenberger

Heart & Beat

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With Illenberger and Doug Cameron, the Equinox division of Narada made a serious push in the early '90s to be more jazz than elevator music. But while Cameron's Mil Amore was chock full of adventurous excitement, guitarist Illenberger's is at best very pleasant and perky. So that makes it Narada's second most interesting disc of 1990. The hit of 1989's Catalina Island Jazz Festival, Illenberger has an easy going way with the acoustic guitar and shows a lot of spirit on tunes like "Fun Tango." He gives his electric guitar a workout with multi instrumentalist Budi Siebert's sax on "Sign of Horus," but too many tracks on this disc sound the same. That is, 'tis very nice, mostly frisky, just hard to tell track one (the title track) from track three ("Forrest," which sounds like some melodic noodling exercises). Heart & Beat fits into the same category as labelmate Richard Souther's work. Too exciting to be new age, not quite exciting enough to be engaging pop-jazz. New age with a beat, then? However, if you've never heard Illenberger before, Heart & Beat is still worth checking out. After all, as evidenced here and at Catalina, he's a very solid player.

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