Matt Munisteri

Brock Mumford: Love Story

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Love Story marks the debut of Matt Munisteri's vintage-music band. A fine jazz guitarist, Munisteri has more or less rejected the jazz scene and cultivated an identity as a kind of old-timey singer/songwriter. His voice is polished and fairly conservative, his lyrics witty and unpredictable; his guitar playing -- captured quite well on this immaculate recording -- reveals an impressive mastery of traditional styles. (He doubles on banjo and mandolin.) His instrumentation is doggedly offbeat: Joining him are Will Holshouser on accordion and piano, Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet, Jim Whitney on bass, and Quincy Davis on drums (from Tom Harrell's quintet). All are reliably crisp jazz players, but the emphasis here is on the art of the three- or four-minute song. You could call it pop, but only in the pre-rock sense. Munisteri likes to dust off abandoned styles, like the waltz -- not the blurred-barline jazz waltz, but the straight-up, oom-pah-pah waltz. He can evoke a bygone age in lyrics as well, like on "Picciaridu," an infectious, quasi-Italian novelty that smacks of the old Lower East Side. In addition to his smart, varied, and well-crafted originals, Munisteri does a gripping guitar-and-vocal rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's "Lazy Bones," as well as what might be the best Bob Dylan cover ever, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" made over as an up-tempo swinger. And "Orange Crate Art" by Van Dyke Parks makes for a lilting, picture-perfect finale. In all, it's a really different gloss on the notion of "alternative" music.