When Revocation‘s David Davidson told me about his band’s upcoming album Chaos of Forms back in 2011, the guitarist/vocalist was pretty excited about using his past experience with horn and big band arrangements to compose a horn section for “The Watchers”. Between that and his focus on jazz while at the Berklee College of Music, it’s no surprise that the genre provides the theme for his playlist. Once you’re done checking out his picks, pick up a copy of Bostonians’ fifth full-length (and first for Metal Blade), Deathless, here.
Pat Martino’s “Just Friends” (from 1967’s El Hombre)
My first real introduction to jazz was as a freshman in high school. My guitar teacher at the school was very ambitious and would bring in transcriptions of full solos to learn that we would have to play in unison. I remember when he brought in “Just Friends” to the classroom, I was very intimidated but determined to not let him down. My fellow classmates and I struggled through the piece, learning it bit by bit, and when the recital finally came we actually played it pretty well for a bunch of teenagers just learning how to swing. This tune will always be special for me because it takes me back to a very inspiring time that pushed my boundaries and opened my ears up to a completely new approach to the guitar.
Pat Metheny’s “Solar” (from 1989’s Question and Answer)
“Question and Answer” is easily my favorite Metheny record and has a total dream team rhythm section featuring Dave Holland playing upright bass and Roy Haynes on drums. Pat’s lines are incredibly fluid on “Solar” and he really goes off as his solo progresses, playing out with a keen sense of melodic sensibility and motivic development. The interaction between Holland and Haynes is also quite remarkable and their mastery of form keeps this uptempo tune flowing and on track.
Liberty Ellman’s “Ophiuchus Butterfly” (from 2006’s Ophiuchus Butterfly)
I got turned on to this record a couple of years ago by a buddy of mine and it’s been in heavy rotation ever since. The title track begins with an off-kilter melody that still maintains a killer groove. The tune then builds as contrapuntal lines between the guitar, saxophones and tuba interact and bounce off each other. As good as the album opener is, every tune on this record has its own personality, with each track maintaining harmonic complexity and interesting melodies. Ellman’s unique compositional style shines throughout the record and is only elevated by the saxophone duo of Mark Shim and Steve Lehman, who each lay down absolutely crushing performances which elevate this album to an even higher plateau.
Kurt Rosenwinkel Standards Trio’s “Ask Me Now” (from 2009’s Reflections)
I’m a total sucker for chord melodies–there’s something about taking a jazz standard and reimagining it in different ways that is so beautiful and intriguing to me. Kurt Rosenwinkel’s rendition of the quintessential Thelonious Monk ballad “Ask Me Now” is played with a level of sophistication that few but Kurt are capable of. His chords are rich and harmonically complex, but he never loses sight of the melody. Kurt has proven himself to be one of the best guitarists in modern jazz and his thoughtful interpretation of this tune is a must listen for fans of classic standards played with pure class.
Anthony Braxton’s “Countdown” (from 2003’s 23 Standards (Quartet))
Anthony Braxton is one of the true geniuses of our time. He’s a forward thinking composer, educator and improviser who’s released over 100 albums since the ’60s. On 23 Standards, Braxton is on fire, playing with a burning intensity that is truly awe inspiring. His performance of the uptempo Coltrane classic “Countdown” builds in ferocity as he blazes through the lightning fast changes. Guitarist Kevin O’Neil also delivers a jaw dropping performance on this track, utilizing eyebrow raising post bop lines and abrasive chords.
*Order a copy of Revocation’s Deathless here.
**For past Decibrity entries, click here