Maine is a fertile ground for nurturing fine guitar players. There was the influential Lenny Breau, the contemporary guitarist Mark Kleinhaut, and now comes Neil Lamb. This small state (population wise) has had more than its share of string specialists. Lamb's first album focuses on his own compositions, some written with help from friends. His work covers a good deal of stylistic territory, and he travels throughout this territory with both six- and seven-string instruments, although mainly the latter, with and without electrical juice. Some of the tracks are Lamb by himself, on others he is joined by Dave Herzfeld on drums, Jim Lyden on bass, or the aforementioned Kleinhaut. Lamb uses a variety of experiences or mind sets to inspire his writing. Thus, there's the poignant, sometimes stately ten-minute tribute to three members of his family in "Family Portrait Suite." The session kicks off with a musical picture of melodies flying down a slippery slope with "Down the Mountain." Lamb shows a slightly funky side with a dedicated-to-nature and bouncing "Whitetail," where he's joined by bass and drums. One of the more engaging tracks is "Footsteps to Freedom," with Lamb's seven-stringed instrument coming out of the right speaker and Kleinhaut's six-string guitar coming from the left. The listening here is an especially celestial experience. One can almost hear the energy of water surging during the playing of "Cascade" as Lamb and Herzfeld create a sonic waterfall. Although Lamb is a masterful composer and a fine performer, one wishes that he had added a horn to some of the tracks to provide more texture. Other than that, there is little to complain about on this album which successfully pulls together extraordinary writing and performing skills for a concert of guitar music.
New Tunes for Jazz Guitar
New Tunes for Jazz Guitar Review
by Dave Nathan