Joshua Breakstone: No One New – Jazz Guitar Life CD Review

After nineteen albums as a leader, and innumerable performances as an international and domestic artist, Joshua Breakstone is one of those great Jazz Guitarists you hear about throughout the Jazz Guitar community, but normally not through the mainstream Jazz press. This is a shame, because he’s a true Jazz artist committed to keeping the straight-ahead flame alive and burning bright!

Breakstone’s current Capri Records CD, No One New, is a testament to the many years of devotion he has given towards single-note improvisation and harmonic ingenuity, both as a performer and educator. Throughout the eight tunes, of which five are original compositions, Breakstone’s attention to single line creativity is a passionate reflection of influences and countless hours of wood-shedding that have brought him to this point in time.

Stylistically, Breakstone reminds me of Jimmy Raney, Jim Hall and Peter Leitch to name but a few. His playing is articulate and clean, with a technique that allows him to be as flashy as he needs to be playing quick, long and winding lines or emotionally charged phrases that dig into a bluesy expressiveness. Breakstone seems to come from the “just because you can do it doesn’t mean that you have to do it” school of playing which serves to keep the integrity of the tune intact. And as serious a player as he is, there’s also a noticeable tongue-in-cheek sense of fun and playfulness as he quotes from Giant Steps, One Mint Julep, or the familiar refrain from a child’s tune, on specific cuts throughout the CD.

Compositionally, Breakstone plays it pretty close to the vest as he borrows the progressions from established titles such as Dizzy Gillespies “Bebop”, “But Not For Me”, “It’s You Or No One”, and of course, the blues, to remake those tunes in his own image, so to speak. “Over Done”, “For Me”, “The Unknown One”, “Blues Heretofore” and the title track, sustain new life into the above mentioned progressions, with each receiving contemporary melodies that snap, crackle and pop in their new “homes”.

Joining Breakstone in the development of these new “homes” are two of New York’s most revered top shelf players: Bassist Lisle Atkinson and Drummer Eliot Zigmund. Both artists have played for the crème de la crème of the Jazz world and they both keep that same level of play on this CD. Atkinson and Zigmund provide Breakstone the right amount of communicative collaboration needed to ensure a top notch blowing session that allows for both group support and individual creativity. Lisle Atkinson also contributes one of his own compositions, “Come On Baby”, which, as Breakstone describes, is a “…swinging composition coming at you straight from the soul”*. Indeed it is!

The last two tunes, “The Peacocks” and “The Kicker”, by Jimmy Rowles and Joe Henderson respectively, are ideal additions to the overall compositional quality of No One New, which fits Breakstone’s musical personality to a Tee! If I didn’t know better, I would have not been surprised in the least if I was told that JB wrote those tunes himself. Definitely, a great way to end off a wonderful session of tunes and talented camaraderie.

If you are looking to check out some great straight-ahead Jazz Guitar, then check out Joshua Breakstone and what he has to offer. His CD’s will make a great addition to your collection and if there is anyone deserving of wider recognition, it’s JB!

*Quote from the CD liner notes

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