Carl Amundson

Kinda Cool

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Usually when you see the word "modern" in the context of a jazz ensemble, it's either referring to a bebop combo from the 1940s or 1950s, or to some kind of experimental outfit from the 1960s or 1970s. Guitarist and composer Carl Amundson's outfit is modern in a more limited sense -- post-bop certainly, pre-fusion, absolutely, and generally hovering somewhere around the classic "cool" era. In fact, Kinda Cool is about as perfect an album title as the group could have come up with, because despite the heavy-duty chops that are on display here, everything is suffused with a certain gentility and understatedness -- not the studied impassivity of middle-period Miles Davis, or the devil-may-care romanticism of Chet Baker and his West Coast colleagues, but a warm elegance that never sacrifices prettiness for virtuosity, or vice versa. The band's unusual lineup (three guitars, bass, and drums) lends itself naturally to a certain warmth of sound, but most of the credit must go to Amundson's exceptionally lovely arrangements, and the sympathetic playing of his fellow guitarists Nate Najar and Aaron Watson. Highlights include a gorgeous setting of a tune called "Don't Know Why," and an equally gorgeous and unusual arrangement of a prelude by Frederic Chopin, as well as Amundson's own title track, and his brief and charming "Chasing the Sandman." Very highly recommended to all lovers of jazz guitar.

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