These days, jazz education departments are turning out a lot of bop snobs -- myopic, predictable, narrow-minded musicians who believe that '40s and '50s bop is the last word on jazz and that anything other than straight-ahead jazz and classical has no artistic value. In the mind of a real bop snob -- the sort of musician who wouldn't know Nine Inch Nails from the Chieftains or the Roots from Dwight Yoakam -- rock and country are as worthless as funk, hip-hop, reggae, salsa, and traditional Chinese music. But thankfully, Nigel Clark doesn't think that way. The lyrical acoustic guitarist can play bop -- he's quite good at it, in fact -- but he is no bop snob and brings a wide variety of influences to the table. On Grand Hotel Europa, Clark demonstrates that he has been affected by everyone from Django Reinhardt, Jim Hall, and Pat Metheny to Paco de Lucia and Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida. The Scottish improviser is fairly unpredictable, embracing bop and post-bop as well as crossover/jazz-pop -- and his compositions incorporate elements of Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and Spanish music. Clark interprets several well-known standards (including "How Deep Is the Ocean" and Herbie Hancock's congenial "Dolphin Dance"), but he wrote half of the songs himself -- which is a good thing because Clark is a talented composer. And even though some of the warhorses that he embraces have been beaten to death over the years, one is inclined to be forgiving because he has such an attractive sound. In the 21st century, there are plenty of unoriginal young guitarists who are content to be clones of Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, or George Benson -- Clark, however, has an appealing personality of his own. And that personality serves him well on this consistently strong CD.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson