Axemen Shine On Recent Recordings

By Ross Boissoneau

Last time out we looked at some new and occasionally experimental music by guitarists far and wide. This time around, we tune into some bluesy swing and fiery jazz before heading farther afield.

Hamiltion - Robillard

Swingin’ Again

Duke Robillard is well-known in blues circles. The founder of Roomful of Blues and onetime guitarist for the Fabulous Thunderbirds is also well-versed in swing, as he shows on Swingin’ Again with old friend Scott Hamilton on saxophone. The two are joined by members of Robillard’s band and some special guests. Highlights include “I’m Puttin’ All My Eggs In One Basket” with Robillard’s onetime Tbirds associate Sugar Ray Norcia on vocals, and “Steady Daddy,” where Robillard’s stinging guitar provides counterpoint to Sunny Crownover’s sassy singing.



Italian guitarist Gabor Lesko has enlisted the likes of Eric Marienthal, Jimmy Haslip, Dave Weckl and a number of his countrymen for an occasionally thrilling, always enticing recording. It features the leader on acoustic and electric, as well as keyboards. Earthway’s title track showcases Lesko’s prowess on guitar and synth, while “Fiesta” bounces back and forth between acoustic and electric, uptempo and contemplative (the latter showcasing Lesko’s sensitive piano). “Still Here For You” is reminiscent of Jeff Beck at his most emotional and evocative, while “Push It!” does just that, with the most fusiony guitar on the album. And you have to love a tune called “Mickey Mouse Loves Jazz,” where Lesko’s guitar chases Marienthal’s soprano sax, before the two find unity together.



On Crossings, guitarist Jon Durant is joined by Swiss guitarist Stephan Thelen for an outing that’s one part ambient and one part classical, in a Phillip Glass kind of way. The title track’s repeated rhythms and spooky lead lines are reminiscent of Markus Reuter and Tony Levin’s work with Stick Men. “Fractal 5.7” adds bass, grounding the proceedings somewhat.

The album’s spikey, lengthy guitar lines serves as a counterpoint to another outing featuring Durant, the more jazz-inflected Mutual Isolation by Burnt Belief. Burnt Belief melds Durant’s trademark atmospheric “cloud guitar” approach with acoustic bass by Colin Edwin and drums by drummer Vinny Sabatino, augmented by (occasionally treated) trumpet by Aleksei Saks. It brings out a more melodic (though still occasionally trippy) side of Durant. The titles – “Resistential,” “Perilous Terrain,” “The Evolution of Disintegration” – alert the listener that such will be the case.

The Known Space Project

The Known Space Project

If it’s a more spacey, proggy kind of listening you crave, The Known Space Project by Brian Eaton may be up your alley. The multi-instrumentalist handles drums and keyboards in addition to bass and guitar. This outing veers from New Age (the piano and keyboards of “Jovian Empyrean”) to progressive rock to the jazzy sound of “Not Where, But When” with a synth trumpet. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s his bass that most often takes the spotlight, whether on “Jovian” or the overly repetitious “Four String Theory.”

Ross Boissoneau is a regular contributor to Something Else! Reviews, Northern Express and Local Spins. He’s written for the All Music Guide, Jazziz and Progression Magazines, and is a member of the Downbeat Critics Poll.

Ross Boissoneau

Ross Boissoneau

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