As matter-of-factly as they come, the title of Eliott Knuets’ debut album carries on a tradition that dates back to the inaugurations of the likes of Kenny Burrell in the late 1950s. The style of the promising guitarist from the Wallonia region in Belgium reveals a thorough schooling in classic mainstream jazz guitar, although it’s not particularly Burrellian. As a matter of fact, his punchy but ethereal tone and spiralling lines suggest a fascination with the postmodernity of Pat Metheny. So much for name-dropping. Above all, young Knuets is a remarkably mature player.
It seems that the company of Knuets – a mix of accomplished Wallonian mainstays and veterans – has stood him in good stead. His group is a well-oiled machine that keeps up a zestful groove whether the mood is Latin or bluesy and whether the tempo is ballad-slow or hardbop-medium.
Introducing Eliott Knuets strictly features original compositions by Knuets, pianist Olivier Colette and guitarist Peter Hertmans. Arguably, the preference for fresh material as opposed to standard tunes accounts for the band’s inspired interaction and personal statements. Their compositions are solid though few melodies are particularly memorable. That being said, a record that includes (in Strange Feeling) a lush and smoothly swinging mix of Dolphin Dance and Strollin’ ought to get extra credit.
The emotive power of Knuets is striking and there is potential in his storytelling abilities. Additionally, belying his age, baby-faced Knuets adds a sassy and daring blues solo (Bounce). He’s matched by the skilful and ardent tenorist, altoist and flutist Stéphane Guillaeme and Colette, who interlaces Hertman’s Eliottism with widely orientated phrasing. Knuets’ rare acoustic guitar features are stylish enough to deserve a place at the dining table of modern jazz guitar. A follow-up like Live At Club St. Germain Des Pres might not be a bad idea.
Circles; Eliottism; Bounce; Last Goodbye; Into The Storm; Strange Feeling; The Ril Cat; Hymn Of Hope; Happy Tune; Maël (65.05)
Knuets (g); Stéphane Guillaume (ts, as, f); Olivier Collette (p); Peter Hertmans (g); Sam Gerstmans (b); Daniel Jonkers (d). Ittre, Belgium, January 2021.