Swedish-Italian bassist Massimo Biolcati has been working in support of guitarist Lionel Loueke for a decade, but asserts his role as a leader in name on this debut release. Loueke is here, with the always dynamic drummer Jeff Ballard and the surprisingly adept pianist Peter Rende. The CD is split into equal parts of five selections -- "Motion" and "Stillness" -- the former energetic and forward-thinking, the latter pensive and somewhat introspective, with cameo spots for vocalists Lizz Wright and Gretchen Parlato. The first five pieces feature Loueke in a way that his recordings as a leader also showcase his utterly brilliant, witty, quirky, unique sound. Using a hollowed, blanked-out amplified guitar with effect pedals, Loueke is able to straddle the electro-acoustic line without overemphasizing either. He is the new contemporary Lion King of freshness on the contemporary jazz guitar, and a parallel to the virtuoso accomplishments of Wes Montgomery, using those pretexts but sounding far removed. Check out the choppy kinetic style on "The Beginning," the late-night stealth approach on "Deconstruction," and the quick 5/4 rhythms in the more acoustic/less-processed road song "Transference" for reference points. Rende is a find, as his happy two-note phrases juxtaposed against Loueke contrast on the swinging shuffle "Wise Way." Their diffuse guitar/piano musings go very loose, free, and yet contemporary with Loueke's cheek-popping vocals during "TT." The second half of the program showcases the understated, delicate, and pretty side of Rende on "Under July," where Biolcati takes a central role on an ostinato line, with Loueke leading, but taken over by the beauty of the piano. Rende plays accordion on the 6/8 ethnic beat of "Scandinavia," evoking early-morning frosty mountainscapes in the Alps. The vocal cuts are nice enough, with Wright expressing a sheer lonely mood for "Winterhouse" and the emerging star Parlato dreamy and cerebral during "Clouds." Biolcati, clearly the director but not a dictator in these proceedings, knows how to take a back seat, but also understands the value in letting his brilliant session mates cut loose. This is an excellent debut release, and has to rank as one of the more intriguing and diverse modern jazz issues of 2008.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
feat: Lizz Wright
feat: Gretchen Parlato