Larry Tamanini: Front & Center – Jazz Guitar Life CD Review

From a long line of Philly guitarists including such luminaries as Pat Martino, Dennis Sandole, Kevin Eubanks and Marty Grosz, comes Larry Tamanini, keeping the spirit of Philly Jazz Guitar very much alive. His latest EP titled Front & Center does just that, putting him front and center not only as a spot on improviser but also as a fine composer and supportive leader.

Front & Center,” the first of six original tunes, starts off with a swift succession of notes that become a strong recurring theme throughout the tune. Tamanini introduces the melody in an almost question and answer like fashion with pianist George Hazelrigg which would fit rather nicely into ECM’s melodic aesthetic. Tamanini and Hazelrigg both demonstrate a keen ease when soloing on up-tempo changes as drummer John O’Reilly Jr. and upright bassist Geoff Hazelrigg hold down the fort effortlessly. From the get-go the feeling that this group means business is clear, and they don’t disappoint!

Tamanini’s warm haunting melodic intro to both “Five Minds” and “Tempest” showcase the group as a responsive entity catering to each other’s musical needs as they react to his arpeggiations singularly and as a unit. Tamanini and Hazelrigg convey a strong sense of communication not only as individual soloists, but as musical cohorts, and there is a deep understanding that these are not just tunes for Tamanini to blow over, but for each member to build upon as a unified group.

Hazelrigg’ elegant piano intro to “Trust The Process” – as bass and drums quietly swell up underneath – proves that point nicely, presenting the ideal musical landscape for Tamanini to articulate the nimble melody with poise. O’Reilly Jr. adds some nice dramatic tension and release throughout the tune allowing for a wide range of expression from each player, as he does on every tune to be fair.

The minor blues tune “In the Night” is the third track and has a great fifties New Orleans night-club feel that conjures up imagery of dimly lit smoky rooms and no-goodniks hanging out in the dark recesses. Tamanini exhibits some wonderful Blues infused chops as he incorporates double-stops and a quick vibrato with fleet-fingered Jazzier lines interspersed throughout. Hazelrigg adds the same feel throughout his solo as bass and drums keep the flow moving at a sauntering clip. A great tune and a definite highlight.

And speaking of highlights, “The Determinator” features everyone firing on all cylinders! It’s a relatively quick up-tempo blowing tune that gives each member a solo spotlight to showcase their considerable improvisational dexterity before they end the tune as one. A fantastic closer to a great session. My one criticism would be that this CD is way too short but then it wouldn’t be an EP now would it! 🙂

As you can probably tell I really dig this CD and all those playing on it. Kudos go out to Larry Tamanini who not only shines as a great Jazz Guitar player but also as a talented composer. In fact, before I received the CD I expected it to be good – I mean after all it is Larry Tamanini and the man can play – but thought it would be more of a vehicle for his playing skills, more of a blowing session. I was more than pleasantly surprised to hear well crafted tunes that catered to the melodic and harmonic nuances found in most great writing. Hopefully he will follow suit on his next album as well.

If you’re a fan of contemporary post-bop guitar alongside poignant and well written tunes, then check out Larry Tamanini’s Front & Center. You just may dig it as well!

As an aside, Tamanini had dedicated this CD to Jeff Duperon who I had not heard of. A quick Google search revealed Mr. Duperon to be a “Philadelphia native Jazz Ambassador and one of the most distinct voices in Philadelphia radio – WRTI – with a specialty in jazz” who passed at the young age of 66. This CD is a most fitting tribute to a man who made Jazz his life. From what I’ve read I think Jeff would have dug Tamanini’s music as well. RIP Jeff Duperon.

To learn more about Larry Tamanini, please feel free to check out his Jazz Guitar Life interview here.

Lookin’ to help a brother out? Buy Front & Center here!

Please consider spreading the word about Larry and Jazz Guitar Life by sharing this review amongst your social media pals and please feel free to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you 🙂

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