Upon hearing the first tune, “Ferdinand and Isabelle” off of Mark Kleinhaut’s CD The Balance of Light, the phrase “That’s what I’m talking about!” popped into my head. This a CD that grabs the listener from the first tune to the last and doesn’t let go.
Not only is Mark Kleinhaut a great modern jazz guitarist on par with the likes of Abercrombie, Metheny, Scofield and others of the same ilk (so you know there’s plenty of chops and taste involved), but he is also a truly wonderful composer as well. His tunes are well crafted pieces of art that not only display his comprehensive harmonic and melodic sensibilities, but also reflect the personality of Mark’s special guest, Bobby Watson.
From thoughtful tunes like “Erikita“, “Long look Back“, “Four Lane Clover” and “Start It Up” to playful tunes like “Field of Greens“, “Summers“, and “South of Mason“, the A Balance of Light explores the intricacies of group improvisation and interplay amongst all concerned.
Mark and Bobby share equal stretches of inspirational improvisation as each interpret the underlying harmonic foundations crafted by Mark. But make no mistake, this is a group album and Jim Lyden and Les Harris Jr., bass and drums respectively, keep both players on their toes as they provide both accompaniment and improvisational abilities far beyond the call of duty.
Suffice it to say, the playing from everyone is superb. Mark and Bobby play through the tunes as only the best can: effortlessly and dynamically. Mark’s guitar playing provides the listener with what one expects from a seasoned player such as he: supportive accompaniment and contemplative solos that run the gamut from sensual single line passages to guitaristic bursts of speed, creating an emotional awareness of what must have been going through Mark’s mind at the time.
Such improvisational adventures are obviously matched by Booby Watson’s pure of heart alto playing. It’s through his luminous playing style that one gets a sense of how Mark crafted his tunes around Bobby’s persona and ability. As Mark states in his own liner notes…”Deep in the farthest recesses of our consciousness there is a kernel of something – call it hope. With Bobby, it struck me as A Balance of Light, illuminated through music”.
This is serious music folks, but it’s also fun, and very enjoyable to listen to. Plus the production is wonderful, providing a warmth that I haven’t heard much since the good ole’ ECM days.
This CD should be in every serious music lovers collection. Thankfully, it’s in mine.