Guitarist Jon Herington has long been associated with the Jazz/Rock sounds of Steely Dan alongside his own Blues/Rock/Jazz infused original projects such as Time On my Hands, Pulse and Cadence and more than a few other creative ventures. Within the past year or so though, Jon has gone back to a style of guitar playing that – for him – is extremely personal and treasured: Solo Guitar.
(quiet), the latest CD from Herington is filled with 18 tunes that feature his lavish solo guitar arrangements in an intimate setting of style, taste and tone that fittingly communicates the sentiment of the album title wonderfully.
Tunes like “These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)”, “A Quite Place”, “Angel Eyes”, “But Beautiful”, “For All We Know”, “Never Let Me Go”, “Crazy He Calls Me” and other standards – both Jazz and Pop – are treated with a reverence that places the composers harmonic and melodic intention upfront, allowing Herington to present these songs to the listener without gimmick or pretension. Such artistry stems from Herington’s direct association with his old teacher – the late, great Harry Leahey – and circuitously through Leahey’s lineage which includes lessons from master Jazz Guitarists Johnny Smith and Denis Sandole. It is within this virtuosic pedigree that we find Jon Herington’s respect for a solo guitar tradition that seems to be somewhat left behind.
Of course I don’t mean to exclaim that there are no solo Jazz Guitarists around who do the art-form justice. One just has to look towards Joe Pass, Martin Taylor, Taylor Roberts, Steve Herberman, Lenny Breau, Andy Brown, Ted Greene, Jake Reichbart and Kenny Poole to name but a few to see that the solo guitar style is alive and well. What Herington brings to the table however is an arranged style that fits closer to what Johnny Smith was doing back in the late forties/early fifties (listen to his arrangement of “Spring Is Here” for a great example) than what Joe Pass did or what Martin Taylor does.
This is not to say that Herington doesn’t have the facility for such playing because as one can plainly hear on “That Lucky Old Sun” or on “We’ll Be Together Again”, he most definitely does! What sets him apart – at least for me – is his love for the original harmonic and melodic content of the song rather than how fast he can blow over the changes while playing bass lines or how many reharms he can go through. There’s nothing wrong with that of course and it’s an exciting style to listen to, but I find that Herington’s arrangements remind us how truly great the song is rather than how great the player can be. He brings us back to a time where “deceptively simple” was a key ingredient in many popular songs and show tunes.
To do this though requires skill, and Herington delivers on all fronts. His “tools of the trade” utilize a sophisticated palette of harmonic and melodic devices such as open and densely closed voicing’s, contrapuntal lines, contrasting motion, attention to dynamics and robust voice leading all the while employing a variety of time feels from rubato to playing strict time. As such, Herington brings out all the subtle nuances inherent in a tune as succinctly as possible with no fuss or muss, which is why there are 18 tunes on this CD coming in at only 45 minutes and 47 seconds. To badly coin a phrase, “you get all killer with no filler!”
If you’re a fan of great solo Jazz Guitar, or just great tunes in general, then consider grabbing a copy of Jon Herington’s (quiet) to see and hear what can truly come out of a crappy situation. And while it took a pandemic to get Herington alone in a room with just a guitar and not too loud amp, let’s hope his love affair with this style of playing continues because I think we can all use a little (quiet) in our lives every now and then.
Editors Note: For more information on this fine album, check out the exclusive Jazz Guitar Life Podcast featuring Jon Herington talking about this CD and the behind the scenes process. An informative and entertaining listen!
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