Jazz Guitar Today contributor Mike Oppenheim reviews The Chuck Anderson Trio’s new album, Dominos.
Dominos, the sixth jazz guitar featured album from the Chuck Anderson Trio, consists of twelve of Anderson’s new original compositions. The trio consists of guitarist Chuck Anderson, bassist Eric Schreiber, and drummer Ed Rick. Eleven tracks feature the full trio, while one is an unaccompanied solo guitar piece. However, this is not a typical guitar trio sound – Anderson’s sophisticated use of voicings in comps, and chord melody realizations lend a breadth of orchestration not often heard in such a format. Further, Anderson’s unique attention to compositional technique and craft results in harmonically rich tunes with a depth and intrigue more often associated with pianistic writing. The tunes range from uptempo swing to Latin to funk feels, offering a great variety within a unified musical conception.
Anderson exclusively plays a Gibson L-5 customized by the renowned Philadelphia-area luthier Eric Schulte. Distinctive features of the guitar are its 22-fret neck and emerald green finish, from which its name “The Green Hornet’ is derived. His sound is further refined through the use of a 400-watt Acoustic Image amplifier, exclusive use of the fingerboard pickup, and no pedals or outboard effects. On this album, Schreiber plays solely an electric 5-string bass.
The album opens with “Domino,” an uptempo jazz tune that sets the mood for the album. Though it features a reiterated, symmetrical melodic motif, the harmony on which it is built has a permutative effect, as the motif shifts intervallically with each chord change.
“Recovery Blues” is a standard 12-bar jazz blues with atypical chord changes, characterized by extensive chord substitutions. For example, the V chord appears nowhere in the progression, but its function is achieved through the use of minor third and tritone substitutions. The double stops in the melody fill out the sound of the trio.
A standout track is “Mr. Shady,” a bluesy, soul-inflected tune with the attitude of a modern day “Hit the Road Jack.” The bass drives the tune throughout, and the solos are heavily blues-based against a standard AABA form, with a relationship of relative minor and major keys lending color and contrast to the structure.
“Monet’s Waltz” is a minor waltz evoking the imagery of French artist Claude Monet. The intro notably includes a contrapuntal section between guitar and bass to set the mood. Slurs and grace notes throughout creating a floating, impressionistic feel. Extended chord voicings sing out, and the soft touch and unusually sparse presence of the guitar accompaniment behind the beautifully melodic bass solo are especially evocative.
“Watson’s Walk” is a particularly quirky tongue-in-cheek imagining of Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick Dr. Watson out for a stroll with Thelonius Monk. The theme makes extreme use of tritones and minor seconds in sharply angular lines. Additionally, the melody is a study in the various effects of articulation, marked by contrasting legato lines, sharp staccatos, and glissandi. It features the first drum solo of the album displaying the always colorful and tasteful playing of Ed Rick. Eric Schreiber’s bass solo is similarly demonstrative of the skills of the band, featuring thematic legato runs that result in the sense of a strongly conceived compositional vision within the improvisation.
“Ivory,” a slow jazz waltz set in E major, presents the theme primarily as a sophisticated chord melody. The effect is of a slowly circling tune, moving upward through six harmonic detours. The composition is anchored by ascending and descending triadic chord scales as a balancing technique. The complexity of the chord progression creates an illusion of exotic scalar choices, often falling into the familiar before disembarking again, in some of the most interesting solos of the album.
Typical of Anderson’s albums, the final track is an energetic wildcard in the jazz lexicon. “Open Door” is a driving funk tune heavily featuring drums and bass both in the composed sections and the solos. The guitar is generally understated, with the theme based on a droning effect achieved by placing the melody on string 1, the harmony on string 4, and allowing the B and G strings to ring throughout.
For more information about the personnel and full track listing, visit www.chuckandersonjazzguitar.com.
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