For 2017's simply titled Erik Jekabson Quintet, San Francisco-based trumpeter Erik Jekabson offers a sophisticated, warmly delivered set of original compositions that balance his love of acoustic post-bop and electric guitar-driven fusion. Which isn't to say this is a total fusion or funk outing. Certainly, those elements are present, but overall Jekabson has crafted a more nuanced affair that brings to mind the harmonically rich '70s albums of artists like Pat Martino and Woody Shaw, artists who acknowledged the influence of rock, funk, and R&B on jazz, but who, unlike Miles Davis, continued to express that confluence of sound in organic, often acoustic settings. Helping to achieve this balance is Bay Area guitarist Dave MacNab, who brings his fluid improvisation and lightly acidic sound to the album. It's an approach that calls to mind luminaries like the aforementioned Martino, as well as Larry Coryell, Pat Metheny, and John McLaughlin. Also joining Jekabson here are several longtime associates in saxophonist Dave Ellis, bassist John Wiitala, drummer Hamir Atwal, and percussionist John Santos. Together, Jekabson and his band dive into a series of probing originals that never veer too far in any one stylistic direction, remaining rooted in subtle grooves and nuanced harmonies. Cuts like the brooding "Maintain," the spacy "The Rising Tide," and the languid ballad "Emily Jane" are far-eyed slow-burners that find Jekabson's warm trumpet framed by MacNab's spectral guitar layers. Other tracks, like the Latin number "Zig Zag" and the funky "A Piece of the Action," are more kinetically rhythmic and bring to mind the '70s soul-jazz of Donald Byrd. Elsewhere, the trumpeter and his band dive headlong into the propulsively swinging blues of "Nasty Woman," and deliver swaggeringly lyrical solos on the bumpy, New Orleans second-line-infused "Let Me Tell You What." With Jekabson's songs and MacNab's adroit guitar style assuredly evoking the Wild West genre-bending of the '70s jazz scene, there's nothing retro or vintage-sounding about their work here. This is contemporary jazz in the best, most modern sense, and an album rife with adventurous improvisational savoir faire.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar