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Franco-American Swing

Widely acknowledged as a guitarist’s guitarist, John Jorgenson earned his stellar reputation playing with The Desert Rose Band, Elton John’s band, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt and of course on those great albums with Jerry Donahue and Will Ray in The Hellecasters. A jazz-rock guitar innovator, Jorgenson was exposed to jazz early on by his father James, who conducted for Benny Goodman. On his 2004 instrumental album, Franco-Amercian Swing, Jorgenson tastefully conjures up the ‘30s hot jazz sound of Django Reinhardt and Benny Goodman. As a follow up, the guitarist actually plays the part of Django in the upcoming film Head In The Clouds, set for release in September 2004. He also transcribed two Django cuts for the movie’s soundtrack. Commenting on the CD, Jorgenson adds, “My goal in making this CD was not only to be as true to the style as an American can be, but also to expand the style by adding new compositions and including orchestral arrangements which are the result of an on-going creative collaboration with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. My background in classical music and my experience playing rock and pop music can't help but color my compositions and lend an accessibility that can be rare in jazz." The 15 track Franco-Amercian Swing features a number of Jorgenson originals and among the four covers is a gypsy jazz version of “Man Of Mystery”, written by Michael Carr and brought into the top 10 in 1960 by The Shadows. In the song, Jorgenson brilliantly extrapolates daredevil solos on both guitar and clarinet (!), putting a new spin on a most interesting song choice. Jorgenson’s grasp of Django’s ‘30s style gypsy jazz is most impressive on Franco-Amercian Swingand is a fitting reprise to his 1988 Curb release, After You’ve Gone, the guitarist’s prior foray into the realm of Reinhardt / Goodman style jazz.



The Equatorial Stars
(Opal / DGM)

Brian Eno may be currently recording a new solo album and Robert Fripp, currently on tour as part of G3 with Vai and Satriani, yet in 2004 they found time to release the most recent Fripp & Eno masterpiece. Harkening back to their ground-breaking ‘70s miminalist instrumental works like No Pussyfooting and Evening Star, The Equatorial Stars is a remarkable work of meditative guitar / electronica. Decked out in beguiling artwork, the seven track Eno production features a number of oblique music strategies layered with cutting edge Frippertronics. The Equatorial Stars may be a timely reminder of their ‘70s albums, yet with it’s post modern edge, laced with a hypnotic palette of sounds, the CD summons up a fascinating New Age texture for the new millennium.



Is There Love In Space?

Playing to packed houses on a G3 Euro tour with Steve Vai and Robert Fripp, and returning to a late Summer 2004 touring bill with Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy, Joe Satriani is a busy guy. With eleven solo albums over his 20 year career, Satch hits another pinnacle with his 2004 CD Is There Love In Space? One thing’s for sure, there’s ample spacy metal-guitar riffs and atmospheric guitar dynamics at work on the self-produced, 11 track CD. Armed with his blazing technique and masterful grasp of the guitar fusion genre, Satriani still can blast through the Stratosphere, yet on the title track, he also harnesses a melodic execution that would impress a melodicist like Brian Wilson. In Joe’s words, “people have heard my bluesy side, my metal side and my techno side, I guess this is my rockin’ side.” He’s always been right at the cutting edge of the high tech instro guitar fusion scene and, eager to explore new boundaries, Joe features his vocals on a couple tracks here, although he’s quick to point out, “my fans know I’m just using the vocals as an effect to create an interesting song. What we arrive at is somewhat cathartic for someone who doesn’t sing.” Featuring key contributions from Matt Bissonette (bass) and John Cuniberti (drums), Is There Love In Space? is the latest action packed instrumental adventure from one of the most reputable guitarists rockin’ today.


Mescal Mary

A consistent quality rolls right through the third solo album and instro debut from singer-songwriter Mike Breen. On Mescal Mary & Other B Bender Guitar Instrumentals, Breen performs masterfully on the B and G bender guitar, a guitar device invented by one time Byrds guitarists Clarence White and Gene Parsons to resemble the sounds of the pedal steel guitar. Breen mixes his tasty electric work with his added banjo, mandolin and flatpicking guitar sounds. Supported by drummer Mickey McGee, the Phoenix-based guitarist revives a post-modern Nashville / Bakersfield instro sound injected with some melodic and progressive guitar touches and a vintage Les Paul style feel. Breen never wears his influences out and with it’s wide ranging diversity, the 12 track instrumental CD is just the ticket for twangy guitar and country instro enthusiasts. Among his fine original tracks, Breen covers of two certified instro classics—”Apache” and “Sleepwalk”—further defines the focus and variety on Mescal Mary. Commenting on his famous choice covers, Breen adds, “I picked "Sleepwalk" because Ed Black (Ronstadt, Yoakam, Tracy Chapman) used to play it beautifully on his lap steel and forced me to learn to play the rhythm guitar part the way Santo and Johnny did it. Ed was just a brilliant steel player, lap steel player and guitar player and helped me learn more about music than just about anyone else so it’s kind of a tribute to him.” Commenting on the Jerry Lordan classic, "Apache is a song I’ve loved ever since hearing Tommy "O" Oster play it in a band called the Two Week Notice Band, which counted among it’s members Russell and Ken Skaggs (Glen Campbell) and Matt Cartsonis (Warren Zevon, Bryndle). Tommy "O" was amazing and really known to only a few.”


(Vintage Groove)

Recorded during the first few months of 2004, and set for release in late September 2004, Dream is a most appropriate title for the second solo album from Japanese bassist/guitarist and composer Ken Sasaki. Commenting on the CD’s instrumentation, Ken adds, “I played basses and guitars with spacy / ambient synth sequences. I wanted to mix opposite elements—machine sounds and acoustic human tones—like machine drums and double bass, synth and acoustic guitar. Some tunes are very abstract and some tunes are very simple and human. Those elements are mixed in the album like seeing dreams.” Ken’s 2002 solo CD, Tiki Moon by Kenny Sasaki & The Tiki Boys, featured a composite of tropical/exotic sounds with vintage instruments and on Dream he takes a convincing musical step forward. Describing his musical mission on Dream, Ken adds, “I recorded and mixed in my home studio by myself. The new album is a very private work. I made tunes like dream paintings on white canvases with musical instruments instead of brushes and a color box.” Eager to explain his most imaginative solo recording yet, Ken admits, “I like music that takes me to somewhere, some dimensions I haven't visited or experienced”. An enchanting album loaded with atmospheric bass / keyboard based instrumental tracks, Dreams is a sublime soundtrack for your imagination.


Renaissance Of The Steel String Guitar

Acoustic steel string guitar wizard, Dan Crary has been described as “the fretboard equivalent of Fred Astaire dancing up, then down a staircase” and after hearing his latest solo CD on Thunderation, Renaissance Of The Steel String Guitar, it’s hard to argue with that fact. Based around Crary’s theatrical concept of the history of the acoustic guitar, the 13 track, 53+ minute CD encompasses a breathtaking range of instrumental guitar lore, touching up various music styles such as acoustic Americana, blues, country style flat top pickin’, Spanish flamenco, jazz as well as classical, best heard here on the adaptation of the third act tenor aria from Puccini’s Tosca and the final cut, “On The Fritz”, which adapts and combines music from violin legend Fritz Kreisler and a Hungarian dance by Brahms for acoustic steel string. Equally impressive is the CD booklet, which features voluminous notes on the history of the acoustic steel stringed guitar described by Crary as the primary instrument in the development and spread of American folk music, country music and the blues, as well as detailed discography information and some truly eye-catching color artwork. Crary is backed by various notable players on steel string acoustic, resophonic guitars, mandolin, harmonica, piano, percussion and strings, but the center spotlight here is on Crary’s impeccable and imaginative guitar craft.

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed in and 20th Century Guitar. Send to P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by Send to: CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249