Jawboning presents electric guitarist Ken Wessel in an auspicious debut, leading a dynamite trio that including acoustic bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Lou Grassi, both mainstays of the CIMP label. Previous to this recording, the guitarist had appeared on several albums, most notably with separate groups led by saxophonists William Gagliardi and Ornette Coleman. For this one, Wessel attractively packages two standards, "I Remember You" and "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise," with a couple of originals by Wessel and Filiano, along with one collectively free improvisation, "Diminutive Innuendos," that was apparently renamed from "Kenluken" after producer Robert Rusch's liner notes were written. The guitarist swings hard throughout, and easily keeps up with his choice of cream-of-the crop sidemen. Although Lou Grassi sometimes overpowers his colleagues, his solos, for example on "Jawboning," are filled with excitement. Ken Filiano is a consistently solid performer, both in support and as a soloist. The opening track is a memorable reworking of "I Remember You," with Filiano, in particular, contributing creatively while Wessel solos to fine effect without fanfare or cliché. Similarly, "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" presents Wessel in a beautiful, swinging, reworking of the tune, burning hard on guitar, while Grassi solos vigorously and Filiano pounds away on bass, driving intensely. The other tracks, though less impressive, are each punctuated with special moments. "Sunset" is a lovely elongated piece where guitar and bass spread their wings gracefully. Lou Grassi is particularly telling on "Collectivity" with a potent low-end solo. Filiano is stunning on "Behind the Mirror," the longest piece on the recording, with a beautiful arco bass solo played slowly and passionately, which complements Wessel's expressive improvisation. The playing on the freely improvised closer, "Diminutive Innuendos," sounds remarkably at times as though it was written, and a consistent synergy among the players emerges.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Loewy