Garrison Fewell

Blue Deeper Than Blue

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Boston electric guitarist Fewell (pronounced "Fuel") had his first recording live at Sculler's Jazz Club, with a formidable backup band of pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Cecil McBee, and drummer Matt Wilson. His sound is amplified but not treated, quite reflective of his influences: Pat Martino, Jim Hall, and to a lesser degree, endorser Larry Coryell. Single lines are much more prevalent than chords, and speed demon excesses take a backseat to beauty and melodic substance on these seven lengthy selections. Fewell seems most comfortable with ballads; here there are three. He wrote "Moon Over Mt. Sumeru," in which the guitar's loping lines are set up by the tumbleweed-rolling piano of Hersch. Another original "U Mandara Ke" (Mandara Flower) is a bit more resonant in its resolve, very similar to the style of Sonny Greenwich. Benny Golson's "Park Avenue Petite" further displays Fewell weaving thick cotton threads through tapestries of sky and seascapes. McBee is the standout as usual. His bold solo on the bop-infused "Blues Update" -- penned by Fewell -- along with Wilson's reticent or lavishly embellished, traded-four drum witticisms, makes this one a keeper. The bassist is also all over a lengthy intro for the busy bossa (again courtesy of Wilson) "Brazilian Breeze" where the guitarist/author uses more chordal accents while Hersch's solo doubles the time at will, presenting the band at their melodic best. McBee's midsection bridge solo for the quick Frank Foster waltz "Simone" is pure delight, with Hersch and Fewell hammering out bronzed solos in a harder swing. This piece unexpectedly fades out after 11 and a half minutes (during a club date? bad editing, or time saving?) Another Golson composition, "Out of the Past," kicks off the CD in an easy swing with much interplay, offering a nice precursor for the rest of the set. Overall, this is a good to very good first effort from a player who seems to have a voice, but doesn't exploit it to its fullest capacity, as if he were leaning on his clearly virtuosic sidemen. It's also a bit on the laid-back side, yet, as a very pleasing outing, it should hip the world to one of the better unknown jazz guitar heroes. Recommended.

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