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Back in the seventies, rock bands would often write and record their music in the studio. Alice Cooper (the band), wrote and recorded their epic Billion Dollar Babies record at the Galesi Estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. The Rolling Stones wrote Sticky Fingers in the studio. Many others wrote essentially their entire album in the studio. It was all about being “in the moment”. So what does this have to do with a solo jazz guitar record, you may ask!? Well…Matt Warnock has borrowed conceptually from this approach to record his first album, Homecoming.
The album is based on “in the moment” musical musings that were developed and recorded in the studio on an ongoing basis over several months.
But let’s be clear, Warnock is certainly capable of “writing” a slew of songs in a totally concentrated manner. Armed with multiple degrees in music that include a minor in composition (completed as part of his master’s degree in jazz performance) and a cognate in 20th century composition (completed as part of his doctorate in music), he certainly understands composition.
This album however is about a homecoming back to his hometown of Sault Saint Marie and writing music that happened to resonate with him on any given day. Recollections of days gone by inspired this music with the result being an enjoyable collection of authentic solo jazz guitar compositions.
Recording a solo jazz guitar record is not for the faint of heart. A flub cannot be buried under a layer of bass and drums. The artist is fully exposed. Warnock’s technical mastery of his instrument is obvious as he lands every note and every chord, with perfection.
I recall listening to Joe Pass’s Virtuoso solo jazz recordings as a young jazz guitar student. There is something about the instrument being played bare and exposed. There is no place to hide.
For this album, Warnock teamed up with an old childhood friend, Dustin Jones, who knows very little about jazz but a lot about sound recording. They met regularly over a few months to record this wonderful collection of solo jazz guitar songs. “Click tracks” or any other devices where NOT used: a few takes, one guitar, and that’s it.
The songs are organized into three sections: Brazilian, traditional bebop style, and modern/module style.
“SJDR” is a look back to days gone by, living in Brazil, which clearly had an impact on Warnock.
“On Lone Pine Blues” Warnock plays the walking bassline that may lead listeners to think a bass player was on the recording. No…it’s just Matt playing his solid body guitar.
Personally, “Heatwave” is my favorite on this record. It reminds me of a sophisticated blend of jazz and folk (Bruce Cockburn after he went electric?) where a hauntingly beautiful idea resonates and keeps the listener captivated.
Other songs pay tribute to Wes Montgomery and Lenny Breau, all based on an idea Warnock had that day. The album is also based on personal recollections of emotions and memories gone by, such as “Denner Street”, evoking thoughts of living in Michigan. Suffice it to say, Matt’s composiitons were inspired by places lived and many master guitar players who inspired him in many ways.
Warnock has the academic background to sit and seriously compose music but this first album is all about writing in the moment and enjoying playing and creating in the studio. The result is a very enjoyable listen.
I purposely left out the fact that Matt Warnock is also a very well-known online jazz educator (full disclosure, I am a member and avid student). But this is not about Matt the jazz educator. This is about Matt the creator.
Matt Warnock has indeed returned home and I for one look forward to more recordings in the near future.
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