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JGT Review: Tim Fischer’s The Holy City Sessions



Guitarist Jackson Evans takes a listen to Tim Fischer’s latest release, “The Holy City Sessions”.

I am well beyond the deadline for this review… I have had access to the tracks on this album since before its release and now the record is out with upcoming concerts supporting distribution. I have heaps of excuses, but without a doubt the best of them is this: When a group of musicians of this caliber is assembled, one does not simply throw the record on in the car or stream it several tabs back while composing emails. It is deserving of a dedicated listen with presence of mind and decent speakers.  

I am fortunate to have some sort of relationship with every musician on this record. I mention that not only in the spirit of transparency but also to reiterate the respectable nature of this collaboration. With the exception of Randy Napoleon who lives in the distant woods of Michigan, these people are the Ringers of the Southeast, the cats we call in when the money is good and the pressure is high. 

With that said, I’ll dive right in with a criticism, if only to prove I am approaching this from an unbiased perspective: I found myself wondering if Tim could have better harnessed the power of ensemble arranging given the dual-guitar instrumentation. Tim and Randy are both monsters of taste and tone and are stylistically like-minded, so I’m not sure how quickly I would have realized there are two guitarists present without having first seen the lineup. I may be overstating it, but I’m a big fan of the tunes-with-hits, 50s heyday of jazz approach, but my intention is to illuminate the potential left on the table here (read as: do we get a follow-up record?).

In an entirely contradictory shift, I have to say my favorite track on the album is number 9, “How Deep is the Ocean”, a wonderful standard featuring only Tim, Randy and their guitars without a rhythm section. The organic bobbing and weaving on this tune is more than reminiscent of “Undercurrent”, the masterpiece duo album by Bill Evans and Jim Hall, high praise if you look at my streaming history. 

With only one other standard on the track list (“What is This Thing Called Love”), Tim has to be commended for the stylistic variety in his original compositions. “Mountain Place” is a modern ballad that makes me miss Vic Juris. “Nite Time Slippers” is a subtle love letter to Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas”. “Bright Lights” bops with the best of them. “Next Stop” and “Lowcountry Boil” are shuffle-core standards to-be, making me wish for a Tim Fischer ODG project. 

All in all “The Holy City Sessions” is an outstanding collection of tunes and a great listen. No protégé of Bruce Forman (see Tim’s educational history) could be caught standing without a foot firmly planted in the history of jazz guitar music (believe me, it swings), but Tim has merged a modern sensibility and a good dose of individuality with that history to create one very fine piece of art. So, go ahead and enjoy it in the car if you must, but I recommend a quiet space, a cold beer, and the best speakers you can find. 

About Tim Fischer

Tim Fischer is a guitarist, composer, educator, and author based in Asheville, North Carolina. He has performed and toured nationally and internationally in multiple festivals and concert series. His musical interests are diverse, ranging from jazz and classical to rock and experimental electronic music. He has lived in several regions in the US, growing up and studying music in Los Angeles, moving to St. Louis in his mid-20s, and living in the Carolinas since 2016. He has integrated himself as a solo artist, bandleader, sideman, and concert organizer into each of these musical communities. He has recorded as a sideman and, as a leader, has released four albums of original compositions and arrangements. His most recent release, The Holy City Sessions, was released on Slimtrim Records in 2023. He is an associate professor of guitar and music technology at Coastal Carolina University and holds a doctorate in studio/jazz guitar from the University of Southern California.

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