Steve Cardenas

West of Middle

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On the N.Y.C. contemporary jazz scene, electric guitarist Steve Cardenas has been one of the more reliable sidemen, playing with dozens of different ensembles. While not a distinctive player, his ability to blend into ensembles with his melodic and pliable sound is admirable. This recording is not his debut, but a follow-up to his recordings for the Fresh Sound/New Talent label, and showcases his lithe but firm original compositions which lie softly on the ears without distortion or heavy effects. Bassist Ben Allison and drummer Rudy Royston offer supple and substantive support for Cardenas, as this music rolls along without a hitch throughout. Whether utilizing bluesy cowboy-type affectations, slow-drifter musings, or in the case of basic melody lines as on the title track, Cardenas and the trio ease along any dusty trail. Devoid of frills, the simple funk beats of most tracks seem to fit his personality, although the choppier space constructs of "RR" and the more pronounced take of Keith Jarrett's "Blue Streak" give solid indications as to where Cardenas might make his next moves. Cardenas goes with the flow, yet heads away from steely skronk or passive new age trappings to find a voice left of center, yet rooted in ground strokes and earthy ideas.

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