Chances are, if you have ever checked out the Las Vegas Jazz scene, you would have heard about a skillful Jazz Guitarist by the name of Laverne Christie. If not, then you are in luck because Christie has released a CD of choice tunes showcasing her strengths as an improviser and leader.
East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon is Laverne Christie’s debut CD featuring her working Trio in a set of eleven Jazz Standards that range from hearty swing tunes to a couple of Bossa’s, with a side order of Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” to stir things up.
As a Jazz Guitarist, Laverne Christie follows tenaciously in the footsteps of those who have come before her, men and women alike. She has a strong sense of the vocabulary needed to express oneself as a Jazz performer, and it’s obvious that she has paid her dues listening and learning from a variety of sources. Her improvisational abilities are clearly cut from the same cloth that has shaped the voices of such esteemed players as Emily Remler, Frank Vignola, Kenny Burrell and Les Paul. In fact, her version of the Hoagy Carmicheal classic, “Stardust” is quite suggestive of Les’s early work, at least to my ears.
Christie’s playing style is clean and articulate, with a light touch that dances across the fretboard confidently. Her tone is a tad brighter than most, allowing her a slight edge in the mix. Christie is also a sensitive comper and her chordal work expresses this sensibility nicely. “Be My Love” is a good example of how she crafts melody and harmony together to enhance the sparse landscape that a Trio setting can sometimes find themselves in through no fault of their own. Her Bossa groove on this tune, played on a nylon string guitar, is also indicative of someone who has taken the time to get it right.
From the opening track, “Stomping At The Savoy”, Christie, along with Mark Ruben and Mike Candito, bass and drums respectively, set about delivering consummate performances all around. As mentioned, the choice tunes come from a standard book of tunes that would make any club owner smile. Jazz Classics like “Dolphin Dance”, “Pick Yourself Up”, “Tin Tin Deo”, “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”, “The Sunset Hour” and my favorite, “Line For Lyons” along with the tunes previously mentioned are well represented by Christie et al.
As such, each player gets to shine throughout the CD with great aplomb and ability. Ruben and Candito deliver a strong supporting foundation with which to build on, making Christie’s musical life a little easier. Her playing settles nicely in the pocket as she explores the harmonic and melodic core of each tune, playing only what’s needed without superfluous, regurgitated lines. A very tasty player indeed!
East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon is an album that I would have no problem recommending to lovers of Jazz Guitar. Laverne Christie’s Trio keeps the flame burning bright for Jazz Guitar and Jazz in general and I look forward to her second album. Thanks Laverne…:)
Editors note: Sadly Laverne Christie passed away a few months after this review was originally published. A loss for us all.