It’s no surprise that the late, great Joe Pass has been an influence to countless Jazz Guitarists who have strived for a more inclusive understanding of their instrument as a complete musical outlet. Melody, harmony and rhythm, played as one, is for some, the Holy Grail of skill sets. As George Van Eps, the revered master of Orchestral Guitar, called it, the guitar can indeed be seen, and heard, as a lap piano. Enter Rob Lanter.
Ever since his first introduction to Joe Pass, while a student at Berklee College of Music in the ‘70’s, Lanter has made it his mission to become as skilled as possible in the art of solo guitar. With the release of his debut CD, Thank You Joe: A Tribute To Joe Pass, Lanter has strived to acknowledge his debt to Mr. Pass while staying true to his own voice. That being said, this is not a CD of regurgitated Joe Pass studies, but rather a nod to the man who changed Latner’s musical landscape, without attempting to take over the Joe Pass mantle.
Latner’s style comes from single note jaunts coupled with counterpoint, walking bass lines and short chord shots along the way. His versions of “Stella By Starlight”, “There Will Never Be Another You”, “Dolphin Dance”, “Body And Soul”, “All The Things You Are” and “Have You Met Mrs. Jones” showcase this style to a T as he demonstrates the use of single lines to set up the melody, followed by delightful sounding chord melodies that morph into swinging bass lines with simultaneous chord shots underneath. An impressive display of lessons well learnt.
Not all the eleven tunes on this CD follow the above show of technical dexterity though, as Latner seems to like a little variety in his solo arrangements. A prime example of this is his arrangement of “God Bless The Child” where the emphasis is on a sparse, simpler approach featuring some Hendrix style double stops, light chorus processing and Latner’s own voice singing the melody with lyrics. Now this may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it is a version that could be played at any club or social gathering with great fanfare from an appreciative audience. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
Latner’s version of the Oliver Nelson classic “Stolen Moments” shares the same sparseness while crossing over a tad into the rock/blues world with some snaky, chorus tinged lines, adding a little spice. Latner also digs into his effects bag on the traditional “Amazing Grace” by opening up the tune with volume swelled single notes, providing an eerie quality to the tune, before bringing out his gospel blues style palette, continuing the tune likewise until it seamlessly blends in with a Latner original titled “Deep Down Inside”. A nice combination!
Latner has one other original composition on the CD titled “Nostalgia In Paradise”, which made me want to hear more originals from this player. More in line with Windham Hill than Joe Pass, it was still a great song to listen to and I’m glad Latner included it in the selections he chose. Personally, I would look forward to hearing a full CD of Latner originals and hope that there’s a possibility of such.
So, if you enjoy solo guitar playing, then check out Rob Latner. Thank You Joe: A Tribute To Joe Pass is a musical hand-shake that says “thank you” in a way that evokes the spirit of Joe Pass while allowing Rob Latner to traverse on a more individual journey. I for one look forward to seeing where Latner ends up.