Full Circle

Howard Alden

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Full Circle Review

by Richard S. Ginell

For its 25th anniversary in 1998, Concord Jazz came up with a unique package comprised of the first and last sessions that label founder Carl Jefferson produced. Jefferson was nothing if not consistent in his vision from beginning to end, for both albums were guitar duo sessions in a mainstream idiom with bass and drums. Flashing back a quarter of a century, Jazz/Concord (CJ-1) is a battle royal -- with the distinct personalities of easy-bopping, quote-happy Herb Ellis and all-over-the-place Joe Pass tumbling over and around each other as Ray Brown (bass) and Jake Hanna (drums) urge them on. They rarely have sounded happier than they do on Coleman Hawkins' "Stuffy," swinging like mad. The competitive tension and the informality of the session give this first Concord item a rough-and-ready atmosphere, almost like a live jam caught on the wing. Armed with a most appropriate and ironic title, Full Circle finds Howard Alden and Jimmy Bruno continuing the Ellis/Pass dialogue on two custom-built seven-string guitars in a friendlier, smoother, often ebullient manner. Both put on marvelously fluid hard bop displays; Alden has the mellower tone, while Bruno's sound is more brilliant in a Les Paul manner -- sort of a gold-and-silver contrast. They also come up with some fine original tunes; Alden's "Terrie's Tune" bounces along merrily on a hard bop roll, while Bruno comes up with a happy-go-lucky original called "Crushed Pepper." Michael Moore (bass) and Alan Dawson (drums) provide the solid, flexible rhythm support, but the two guitarists often choose to go it alone. While the differences in sound quality, production sophistication, and personalities of the principals on these two albums are vast, one could easily conclude that jazz has stood perfectly still at Concord all these years, becoming more polite and polished but no less enjoyable. Since this double-CD set is available at a two-for-one price -- with Jazz/Concord basically being thrown in free -- guitar buffs ought to rush out and grab it.

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