Frank Potenza

3 Guitars: Live at the Jazz Bakery

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Three exceptional young guitar players from different areas of the country with diverse performing styles come together for a live performance at one of the West Coast's more venerable jazz sites, The Jazz Bakery. For more than an hour, they enthrall a live audience with a program of classic standards. But these familiar tunes are just the jumping-off point for inspiring improvisational playing by the performers. This occasion marked the first time these three have played together. But like all consummate jazz artists, they waste little time getting to "know" each other. This instant, on-the-spot camaraderie is apparent right from the first track, "The Days of Wine and Roses," where each of the players have their guitars tuned at a different pitch with one almost as low as a bass, adding foundation and dynamics to the rich harmony. They seem also to take turns in playing melody, rhythm, and a combination of both. These pass-offs are usually immediately recognizable, as they result in a change in the texture of the music, as on an interestingly paced "Once I Loved." It's too bad that the liner notes don't identify the order of soloing on each track. The only place one is sure who is in the lead is on "Over the Rainbow," where Stowell is the sole performer. But if you have an advanced speaker set up, Kelley comes in on the left, Stowell in the center, and Potenza on the right. These three successfully pull off a difficult task of maintaining the attention and interest of a jazz audience all playing the same instrument. This is a well-done session and is recommended.

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