Guitarist Greg Skaff Enlists Jazz Royalty Ron Carter and Albert “Tootie” Heath for his first-ever Guitar/Bass/Drums Trio Album.
Fans of Greg Skaff may know him as one of modern jazz’s premier organ jazz guitarists through his own trios with hard-grooving greats like Mike LeDonne and Pat Bianchi; or as a veteran first-call sideman, from his early years with soul-jazz titan Stanley Turrentine through decades of work with the likes of Ruth Brown, Bobby Watson, Freddie Hubbard, Orrin Evans, Matt Wilson, Ralph Peterson and countless others.
Despite that impressive resumé, Skaff marks a career first with his new album Polaris: a trio album with a standard guitar, bass and drums line-up.
There’s nothing standard about the rhythm section he enlisted for the occasion, however: he’s joined by a pair of jazz icons, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath. Due out March 19 via SMK Jazz, an imprint of Smoke Sessions Records, the album features three jazz masters delighting in each other’s creativity and ebullient sense of swing.
“When a guitar player works with an organist in a trio,” Skaff says, “the organist is driving the bus. He’s playing the bass, a lot of the harmony and sometimes even the melody. So you’re essentially playing their game. In a guitar/bass/drums trio, the guitarist has considerably more responsibility – as well as freedom. Experimenting with that format in the last few years of gigging, I learned to embrace both the freedom and the responsibility. I felt that Ron and Tootie would be simpatico with that because of how sharply they listen and their ability to move the music in different directions.”
Of course, simply setting three gifted players in a room and letting them explore the music took on a different meaning in 2020…
The coronavirus pandemic nearly threatened the recording of Polaris, as the second of two planned studio dates fell on March 16, just as New York City was heading into lockdown.
“Right up until the morning of the date I wasn’t really sure it was going to happen,” Skaff recalls. “I kept checking in with Ron and Tootie to ask if they were still down; I definitely wasn’t going to demand that they be there. But they both wanted to do it. Tootie was in town to play the Lincoln Center memorial for his brother [legendary saxophonist Jimmy Heath, who had passed away in January]. He was really down because it got canceled when they closed Lincoln Center. So he just wanted to do something.”
1. “Old Devil Moon”
3. “Little Waltz”
4. “Paris Eyes”
6. “Mr. R.C.”
7. “Lady In The Lavender Mist”
9. “Little Waltz'”
11. “Ill Wind”
Jazz Guitar Today contributor Tom Amoriello talks to jazz guitarist Greg Skaff about his upcoming release. More here.
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