Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Isaac Darche, Team & Variations

Very good post-bop guitarists play music that does not really fall naturally on the guitar fretboard. The adept at rapid-fire lining and sophisticated chord sequencing has to conquer the inertia inherent in a guitar. A piano lays out all the note possibilities horizontally. "All you have to do" is realize them. A guitar gives you all possibilities as well, but it doesn't lay them out so much as you have to discover them with two different hand functions. I partly jest. To play any instrument well is a challenge. But to me the guitar (or for that matter the contrabass, violin, and/or other stringed instruments) has note possibilities that are mostly not intuitively given to you. We all have seen the amusing videos of cats or dogs "playing" the piano in some fashion. I know of no videos showing pets playing the guitar in any fashion. Well all that means is that there are pre-conditions for getting the guitar to sound that are less obvious than on the piano. This is of course a gross simplification. To do things well on either instrument is equally difficult. They take a lifetime in many ways.

So today we have Isaac Darche, a post-bop guitar player of great skill, technique, finesse, imagination. He puts together an excellent quintet and gives us much fine music on his album Team & Variation (Challenge 73395).

What makes this album so intriguing? The five Darche compositions are exemplary models with complex lines and interesting changes. The three standards are well handled as well. The band members all have the ability to make excellent music in the post-bop vein. Isaac Darche is the consummate weaver of line-twisting spells, a master of balance and velocity, an inventive, inspired technician who has much soul and feeling and a sense of form he brings to the solo situation quite well. He has found very compatible counterparts in the front line in Chad Lefkowitz-Brown on tenor and Glenn Zaleski on piano, the latter who comps with flair, a kind of post-Hancockian sophistication. The bass-drums team of Desmond White and E. J. Strickland are superior as well. They swing mightily and internalize the compositional forms and give back creatively. Everybody does that really, but the rhythm sets the pace and makes it all pop.

Darche is one of those players who brings his considerable "A" game to every song, giving us some variations that always seem inspired. But there is much good soloing all around.

This is a disk I would go so far to say is stunningly good. Darche is a monster and he surrounds himself with just the right kind of companions to get his vision soaring. Excellent!

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