Guitarist Kenny Wessel’s career has been extensive: he has worked with such luminaries as Ornette Coleman, David Liebman and Donald Fagen, as well as teaching guitar all over the world. His latest album, Unstrung, consists of a varied series of tracks, covering a mixture of styles.
From the outset, Wessel’s jazz credentials are clear. The title track progresses in an angular, sophisticated manner, mixing Wessel’s complex hard-bop improvisation with moments of unison with the saxophone. In complete contrast, the following track, In Due Course, is an almost acoustic pop-style track, with harmonising saxophones and subtle, reserved drums providing the backdrop for Wessel’s melodic improvisation. The juxtaposition of unlikely styles is established, held together only by the quintet’s instrumentation.
For example, Lullaby #3 features a duet between Wessel and saxophonist Lisa Parrott, moving through a sparse yet harmonically complex melody. On the other hand, the next track, Sliding, is a largely free-form eight-minute piece which, while opening with some unison between guitar and saxophone, quickly evolves into reverb-drenched improvisation over surging bass and drums. The album continues in this fashion, offering both experimental ensemble work and more traditional jazz compositions.
Overall, the album is a captivating listen, both creative and refined, drawing from all parts of the jazz spectrum. It will interest fans of jazz guitar, as well as those interested in contemporary jazz in general, and is available to be listened to and purchased on Bandcamp.
Hear/buy Kenny Wessel: Unstrung at https://kennywessel.bandcamp.com/album/unstrung-2
Unstrung; In Due Course; Lizard Walk; Lullaby #3; Sliding; When Will I See You Again?; On A Good Day…; Celebi; Story Teller; Over The Rainbow (64.36)
Wessel (g); Lisa Parrott (as, bar, ss); Adam Kolker (ts); Matt Pavolka (b); Russ Meissner (d). No date, no location.