Why is it that when a rock and roll guitarist smashes his (or her) guitar into bits, they get all the credit credit for being creative musicians? Yes, the guitar is the instrument of rock, having replaced the tenor saxophone as a solo instrument in the mid 1950s when rock was emerging from the rhythm and blues it replaced. But in terms of solos and technique, rock guitarists can’t come close to jazz musicians, even jazz musicians you’ve never heard of. And maybe all that’s besides the point, who knows?
Two new jazz artists have just come out with some really tasty albums. Mike Moreno has one on Criss Cross, the fine Dutch label, called First in Mind. The second is an album by Gilad Hekselman, an Israeli musician who moved to New York in 2004; it’s called . Both albums feature some great sidemen, such as Mark Turner on sax, Aaron Parks on keys, Kendrick Scott on drums. Far from doing Hendrix-type theatrics, Frippertronics, or Nels Cline (Wilco) kind of musical gestures, they weave a solid musical architecture, know how to build the rising and falling arc of a good solo, and know how to comp along with their other musicians. Both artists demonstrate cogent and coherent musical thinking, and both may owe a debt to that other great contemporary jazz guitarist, Kurt Rosenwinkel, whose live Village Vanguard live cd (The Remedy) has rewritten the book on jazz guitar.
Jazz guitar isn’t supposed to hit you over the head, but rather entice with interesting harmonies and inventive solos. Both these new albums do that very well. These are young guitarists worth checking out.