Brian Betz

Without a Doubt

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A fine post-bop debut by guitarist Brian Betz, Without A Doubt isn't particularly groundbreaking or innovative, but it's consistently entertaining. Recorded with a basic rhythm section (Jim Ridl on piano, Steve Varner on bass, and Jimmy Miller on drums) plus labelmate Denis DiBlasio on tenor sax and flute, Betz essays a low-key set of mostly original material (only a fairly straightforward reading of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and a rhythmically loose reinterpretation of "All of Me" dip into the standards catalog.) Betz actually stays in the background on many of these tracks; DiBlasio leads most of the solos. This is no bad thing in itself. DiBlasio's sensitive, delicate flute solo on the ballad "Peaches" shows that he's an underrated player capable of more than the occasional flashiness of his own sets as leader, but Betz's admirably restrained style feels at times almost too reined-in. Betz thankfully has no desire at all to overplay -- there is absolutely no fusion-style 100-notes-per-minute showboating here -- but his woody, Wes Montgomery-like tone is so appealing, especially on quieter tunes like "5th Street Bossa," that one does wish he'd showcase himself a bit more than he does. Regardless, this is a most promising debut.

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