Monday, June 6, 2011

Lou Volpe, Jazz Guitar Stylist of Note, Steps Out With "Hear and Now"

It occurred to me as I sat listening to Lou Volpe's solo effort Hear and Now (Jazz Guitar 070) that the reason the playing sounded so familiar to me, so almost GENERIC, was that Lou had been on so many sessions that I had internalized his sound without thinking of the WHO in the playing, that I had become intimately familiar with his playing without associating it with a name. Lou Volpe's played with everybody, and he's played with everybody else too. Here's a cat who has done session after session without really stepping out into the spotlight, more or less until now.

And I must say I find it gratifying to hear him in a setting where it's just him and a quartet, all of whom are there to play--one nice quartet, too. It's good to hear Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano, sounding great, and the two-man rhythm team of Bob Cranshaw on bass and Buddy Williams, drums, is rock-solid, as you would expect.

The fare is contemporary hard post-bop, modern mainstream and some funk numbers. The latter was the bread-and-butter of many a session over the years, of course, and one must expect it, especially since what Lou does is pure Lou. Personally I may not always respond to the style as much as I might have in the past, but the point is what Lou does with it, and that is the interesting part.

On the whole this is one of those records that takes a middle-of-the-road approach to the music and so may appeal to a wider audience, yet it also showcases some very fine players. If you want to know why Lou has been so busy over the years, here is the musical reason--impeccably phrased bluesy-boppy runs with rhythmic vitality and beautiful comping, a sound that is a little earthier than the typical jazz guitar tone, and exceptional taste in note choice. That's Lou. Hear Lou now by checking out the disk.