Graham Dechter: Right On Time – “Jazz Guitar Life” CD Review

The best part of my “job” is getting the opportunity to check out wonderful players who I would normally never get to hear if I had to rely on mainstream media. LA based Jazz Guitarist Graham Dechter is just such an artist. His debut CD as a leader, Right On Time, is chock full of musical goodness spread out over ten tunes that caters to a more mature swing style session than a fusion or contemporary jazz set. On the surface, this would not be that much of a surprise, except that Dechter, is still in his early 20’s, but sounds like he’s been playing for twice that long!

From the opening track “Low Down” (Thad Jones) to the final cut, “In A Mellow Tone” (Duke Ellington), it becomes quite obvious that Dechter has not wasted any time in getting to know the language that has made cats like Tal Farlow, Billy Bean, Chuck Wayne, Cal Collins, Sal Salvador, Herb Ellis, Kenny Burrell, Joe Puma and Chris Flory jazz guitar icons. It’s clear that Dechter has found his niche and is clearly capable of swinging with the best of them. And if you don’t take my word for it, just ask Jeff Hamilton, John Clayton, Michel Buble and other notable players on the scene today.

That being said, Hamilton and Clayton, along with piano great Tamir Hendelman, join Dechter on his maiden voyage in a musical collaboration that swings hard, with each player providing stellar accompaniment and sophisticated improvisational aptitude. Dechter takes full advantage of the musical muscle offered him as he glides through the tunes with a warm, yet crisp attack that features plenty of swift lines, melodic development and tight arrangements. Dechter turns the swing style out wonderfully as he blows through the changes with a firm grasp of the harmonic possibilities at hand. There’s no showing off or blurring of styles as Dechter keeps his heart, head and hands in the swing game, with an honest representation and interpretation of the music and players who have come before him. He’s definitely blessed with an “old soul”.

Dechter’s “old soul” also comes into play with the tunes he has chosen to introduce himself to the World with. They are a nice mix of standards and not often played tunes that feature fresh arrangements from Dechter and Hendelman. Tunes like “Low Down”, “Wave”, “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues”, “Broadway”, and “In A Mellow Tone”, are played by all with depth of musical character and seasoned familiarity. And while these tunes can definitely stand on their own, check out the smokin’ Johnny Hodges tune “Squatty Roo”, the Ray Brown tune “Lined With A Groove”, and the sensitive ballads “The Nearness of You” and “With Every Breath I Take” by Hoagy Carmichael and Cy Coleman respectively. These tunes, along with the title track composed by Decter’s father Brad Dechter, capture the fire, finesse and sensitivity one comes to expect from players twice Dechter’s age, yet Dechter embraces these elements like any seasoned pro. It’s no wonder heavy cats wanna play with him!

Graham Dechter may not yet be a name you know at the moment, but is definitely a name you will most likely be hearing in the near future. I for one look forward to following Dechter’s career and highly recommend checking out his debut CD and adding it to your music collection. It’s a rare opportunity to get on the ground floor with a rising star, so now’s your chance.

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