Jonathan Kreisberg: Unearth – Jazz Guitar Life CD Review

For those who thought that there could be no more surprises in the world of Jazz Guitar…may I introduce Jonathan Kreisberg. Hailed as a major up and comer by players, fans and critics alike, and only in his early thirties, Kreisberg sounds and plays like a seasoned veteran. You only need to listen to his latest CD release from Mel Bay Records, Unearth, to hear the brilliance that is Jonathan Kreisberg both as an electrifying player and composer.

Unearth has it all as Kreisberg and crew draw the listener into a world filled with prodigious playing, thought-provoking improvisational ingenuity, and heady tunes. It is a world that defines the harmonic and melodic richness of jazz improvisation and in particular, the individual voice that is Jonathan Kreisberg. And what a voice! His playing is harmonically fruitful and melodically effortless as he charms long flowing lines from his guitar with a taste, skill, and experience that, as mentioned earlier, belies his youth.

To kick off the set of eight original Kreisberg tunes, “Minor Leaps” makes reference to Coltrane’s Giant Steps* as the tune starts off with a descending pattern of minor triads* only to burst into a dense string of quickly played lines that make up the tunes melody. Coupled with Scott Wendholt on trumpet, the head, while intimidating to the average ear, is quite musical and will most likely have guitar junkies scrambling for their pencils and transcription paper. As the tune takes form, Kreisberg, Wendholt and pianist Aaron Goldberg get to showcase their chops as they fly over the changes with extreme skill, with Goldberg playing some nice choice notes on a warm sounding Fender Rhodes. The combination of trumpet and guitar serves as a delightful mix of tone and texture with Kreisberg’s dark tone in distinct contrast to Wendholt’s sharp timbre and resonance. Definitely makes for a pleasant and interesting aural experience.

The fast pace of “Minor Leaps” is offset by the second tune “Until The Sun Submits”, a sensitive and understated bossa that has Kreisberg playing some outstanding lines with a subtle overdriven tone that emphasizes the emotional significance of the tune**. Bassist Matt Penman gets off a nice solo before heading back to the head to close out the tune with the group. The time picks up again with “New For Now” as Goldberg opens the tune with some warm sounding chords before Kreisberg and Wendholt state the melody. The form is improvised over first by Kreisberg, followed by Wendholt then Goldberg, and finally drummer Anthony Pinciotti gets to share some of the spotlight as he takes a nice chorus with some hip snare work to start him off. These cats are definitely at the head of the class. Just wonderful stuff!

The remaining tunes, “Pacific”, “Microcosm For Two”, the Scofield-like “Hobroken”, “Peru”, and “Unearth” all share the same quality and high consistency of talent that is expected with such a high caliber of musicianship as Kreisberg and group exhibit on this CD. And while all the tunes should be given your undivided attention, special emphasis has to go to the beautiful acoustic number “Microcosm For Two”. The striking tone of Kreisberg’s Collings acoustic is worth the price of this CD alone as he and the group make beautiful music together. This is indeed ensemble playing at its finest and should not be missed! As well, Kreisberg’s solo on “Hobroken”, an awesome display of slightly overdriven chops and chromatic tension as he tips his hat to the guitar stylings of Mr. John Scofield, should definitely not to be missed either.

That being said, you can be sure that this is a CD that is going to be in my CD player for a long time to come. It’s great music pure and simple. And if that’s not enough to sway you, the fine folks over at Mel Bay Records have enhanced the CD to play in your CD Rom providing exclusive pics, a biography, a discography, and an interview. So if you are a fan of great Jazz Guitar music, or great music in general, Walk, Don’t Run, to your nearest Mel Bay outlet to unearth a copy of Unearth.

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* Thanks to David Adler for the insight.
** You’re just gonna have to check out the liner notes to learn the deep significance of this tune…:)

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