Category Archives: guitar

Libor Šmoldas LIVE at Smalls Jazz Club

Libor Šmoldas Quartet

From Left: Libor Šmoldas, Josef Fečo, Tomáš Hobzek, Petr Beneš

It’s a real privilege to be able to listen to and watch quality live jazz from anywhere on the planet — like from my chair in front of my computer.  That’s the gift NYC’s  Smalls Jazz Club offers us with its  live streaming audio and video.

I had the pleasure of checking out guitarist Libor Šmoldas along with Josef Fečo on bass, Tomáš Hobzek on drums, and pianist Petr Beneš during their second set via Smalls’ streaming video this past Monday night.   Šmoldas’ quartet swung hard throughout a thoroughly entertaining set.  He’s a warm, inventive straight-ahead guitarist with some great ideas and the chops to express them.

Towards the end of the set Šmoldas invited legendary bassist George Mraz to sit in for a tune and Mraz clearly enjoyed his moment with the group, soloing beautifully and closing the piece by quoting that classic bass line from Miles’ “All Blues.”

I’m really glad Libor Šmoldas brought his quartet to America all the way from the Czech Republic and even happier to be able to see and hear them live, even from a distance.


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Filed under guitar, Libor Smoldas, LIVE

Bill Frisell Plays His Way To Common Ground

The Intercontinentals

The Intercontinentals

Bill Frisell, this gentle, genre-bending guitarist who can capture the world’s essence in a song or speak in a voice that is clearly American, extends himself towards us and in the process touches something basic, something existential.   His music is full of the joy of life yet there’s always a hint of sorrow there, too, some echo of our knowledge that nothing lasts forever.

So it is with “Good Old People,” from Bill Frisell’s 2003 album The Intercontinentals. We have melody and pulse, soaring guitars and African rhythm.  Violin and pedal steel are driven by drum and cymbal, calabash and triangle, all played by a truly intercontinental collection of Frisell’s best friends.

“Good Old People” stands on its own just fine as music but like many Frisell creations it’s more than a world-class cut from a world-class album.   “Good Old People” is a vessel for emotions both joyful and melancholy,   a soaring, cascading celebration of life that gets to the essence of what makes Bill Frisell special — his talent for touching the common humanity in all of us.

Listen to this.   No matter where you are, it sounds like home.

Bill Frisell – guitars, bass
Sidiki Camara – calabash, djembe, congas, percussion
Jenny Scheinman – violin
Greg Leisz – pedal steel guitar
Vinicius Cantuaria – guitars, drums, percussion
Christos Govetas – oud, bouzouki

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Filed under Bill Frisell, Blip, guitar

Lionel Loueke’s Superstar Support

Photo by Juan-Carlos Hernandez, Geneva, Switzerland

Lionel Loueke

I’ve been trying to figure out why I like Lionel Loueke’s music as much as I do.

Yes, he’s extremely good at what he does.  He has a distinct musical identity, his own particular combination of influences, and dedication to the craft.  He also has his own unique ways of making music. Whether he’s out front doing his own thing during his concerts or on his own records, I know it’s Lionel Loueke speaking to me from the second I hear his guitar, voice, or both.   The man from Benin is known far and wide for his beautifully moving recordings as a leader.

He is a living bridge between Africa and the West, steeped in the music of his childhood and fluent in America’s music, jazz.   But there’s something else.

It turns out I enjoy his work so much because he is the ultimate collaborator.    Even though he has an incredibly distinct style, when he’s working on someone else’s thing he brings just what’s needed for that moment.

Here are a few examples:
Loueke has a long history of collaboration with singer Gretchen Parlato; they’ve worked on each others’ albums for several years now.  On “Within Me,” from Parlato’s album In A Dream, Loueke seems to lay out during the verses and is gently there for the rest of the piece.   He provides rhythmic pulse and emphasis and stays out of the foreground.   His is a perfect, minimalist effort in support of a beautiful voice and lyric.

Magos Herrera, a very talented singer from Mexico by way of New York City, worked with Loueke on her album Distancia. The album’s opening cut, “Reencuentro,” features Loueke as an up-front member of the rhythm section.  He moves into his solo by echoing the last line of Herrera’s chorus and then has a melodic conversation with pianist Aaron Goldberg.   Here Loueke’s efforts are a prominent part of a successful group effort.

Terence Blanchard worked with Loueke on his latest album Choices. “Byus,” the album’s opening cut, features Loueke’s intro under Dr. Cornel West’s spoken words and his solo over  the cut’s fade.   In between, Loueke comps beautifully under Walter Smith III and Blanchard’s solos.   This time he gives a little signature Loueke in the beginning and a lot of inventive support for the rest of the cut.

I really appreciate the subtle support Lionel Loueke gives to others on their projects.  To me, his efforts are the very essence of the type of collaboration that makes much of today’s jazz so exciting.  Lionel Loueke helps others bring out the best in themselves, and that’s great for jazz fans everywhere.

Photo of Lionel Loueke by Juan-Carlos Hernandez

Lionel Loueke
Lionel Loueke on his technique and influences
Gretchen Parlato
Magos Herrera
Terence Blanchard
Dr. Cornel West

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The Underground Gets Down In Stuttgart



This is tenor sax jazz juggernaut Chris Potter’s thing, this live version of “The Wheel,” a funky turn from Potter’s 2006 release Underground.

But last July he was on stage in some mighty fine company — the rest of his current Underground lineup: guitarist Adam Rogers; ultra-versatile Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes; and mighty mighty Nate Smith behind the drums — and yeah, it seems there are times when Chris Potter just likes to stand back  and be thrilled along with the rest of us.

Craig Taborn on the Fender Rhodes, his crunchy left hand part of the reason nobody misses the missing bass.  Prowling low with that left, burning with his right, trading breaks with Rogers whose  supple lines goose things along with a quiet intensity.  The guitar and Rhodes on top of and inside that solid truncated funk Nate Smith is ringing out.

Smith’s right foot is the engine.  Taborn’s locked in with Smith, eye to eye and beat for beat.  It’s all the more tight, all the more funky because it only takes two.  When Smith steps out for his own muscular break he heats things up even more, and when Potter finally returns, ready to break loose,  the stage is set for a truly fine finish.

Chris Potter’s Underground
Jazz Open Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
24 July 2009
“The Wheel” 10:55


Filed under Adam Rogers, Blip, Chris Potter, Craig Taborn, drums, funk, guitar, LIVE, Nate Smith, piano, tenor sax

Brad Mehldau’s Groove Sizzles in San Sebastian

Metheny Mehldau Quartet

Metheny Mehldau Quartet

Three months after the release of their Quartet album, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Jeff Ballard lit up the stage in San Sebastian, Spain with the album’s opener, “A Night Away.”

When Mehldau solos he steals the moment, exchanging ideas with Grenadier, moving and shaping the pulse of the laid-back groove, and extending his feel-good vibe into the appreciative crowd.

Mehldau’s erstwhile band mate, sax man Joshua Redman, recently had this to say about the pianist:

His music just grooves. I mean, for all the complexity and all the harmonic rigor and all the technical prowess and all the lyricism, beneath it all is this incredible groove. His feel is unassailable.   He has the best groove on the planet.

Take in this live version of “A Night Away” and let the groove move you.

Pat Metheny Brad Mehldau Quartet LIVE
Jazzaldia Festival, San Sebastian, Spain
28 July 2007
“A Night Away” 10:36

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Filed under Blip, groove, guitar, LIVE, piano, video