Invisible Music records continues to bring to public attention jazz artists who are either from, or live and work, in Maine. Figurations is the debut album of guitarist Richard Nelson. He and his fellow performers, Chris Van Voorst Van Beest on bass and drummer Steve Grover, are members of the University of Maine's Augusta jazz faculty. All of them are active on the New England jazz scene. Of the nine selections on the play list, five are originals either by Nelson or Grover, whose compositions also grace his own albums. The remaining piece are classic pop and jazz standards. The music here is quite serious and intense, and that setting is established right from the get go with a lengthy exposition of Nelson's "Dark Side," which features the highly imaginative chordal peregrinations of the guitarist's rich, reverberant strumming. With both a guitar and a bass in a trio, one might expect that they might get in each other's way from time to time. Not so here. Van Beest can be heard to good effect as a soloist on several cuts, but is especially melodic on the title tune, "Figurations." Grover continues to maze as a drummer. Even when soloing, he never smashes but retains a subtlety that characterizes the moderated environment established for the session. This is not to say that the music is meek; but, while profound, it is not boisterous. On occasions, it is nudged up to the edge of modern classical, such as with "Due Respect." Nelson's "Angel Eyes" recalls Johnny Smith's unique legato that he constructed. This album is a notable first effort by a performer with a special sound to his axe. Recommended.
by Dave Nathan