Friday, January 31, 2020

Jonathan Kreisberg's "Capturing Spirits-JKQ Live" Germany 2019

Jonathan Kreisberg Capturing Spirits- JKQ Live 
Jonathan Kreisberg is a gifted, post-hardbop guitarist who possesses a distinctive modern tone, blazing facility, and an intriguing sense of melodic and harmonic imagination that can captivate the listener's attention.

Originally from New York, Kreisberg grew up in a household with a great and varied music collection, from John Coltrane to John Williams to the Who and the superband Cream. Kreisberg moved to Miami at the age of ten where he attended the New World School of Arts. After graduating, he received a scholarship to The University of Miami, held the guitar chair on the school's Concert Jazz Band, and got an opportunity to play with the likes of Michael Brecker and Joe Henderson. His early band, The Third Wish, was a progressive rock band that, by his own account, was "...coming up with new textures and being communicative while still playing intense musically."

In the early nineteen-nineties, Kreisberg returned to his native New York and reevaluated his goals as a professional musician. He concentrated on the importance of melody and harmony and honed his instrumental skills by working with a diverse array of talented jazz artists, including vibraphonist Joe Locke, saxophone legend Lee Konitz, drummer Bill Stewart, pianist/organist Gary Versace, and bassist Larry Grenadier to name a few. Jazz and blues B3 master Dr. Lonnie Smith, who had been with guitarist George Benson earlier, was impressed by Kreisberg's jazz vocabulary and offered the young guitarist a seat in his touring trio. It has been a valuable multi-year association. Currently, leading his own group, Kreisberg established his most recent quartet, which musicians pianist Martin Bejerano,  bassist Matt Clohesy, and drummer Colin Stranahan.

Martin Berjerano, Jonathan Kreisberg, Colin Stranahan and Matt Clohesy (photo credit unknown)
I have been following Jonathan Kreisberg's work since being impressed by his exciting fusion-infused album Shadowless, a cd which I named as one of my Notes on Jazz's Best of Jazz in 2011. Kreisberg expanded his goals in 2013 by recording a moving solo album titled One. In 2018, the guitarist released a  gorgeous collaboration with the Brazilian nylon string guitarist Nelson Varas on their spectacular Kreisberg Meets Varas.

Capturing the Spirits is the guitarist's first "live" recording, and in the hustle of touring, the band members became unaware that they were being taped at a show at the Jazz Schmiede in Dusseldorf Germany on March 15, 2019. Unhampered by the pressure of being "on" for a recording, the spontaneity and free-flowing energy of the group was palpably captured. The inspired music was partially a reaction to the enthusiasm of the crowd, but make no mistake, these guys are acutely aligned, driven by a unified internal desire to stretch and expand their improvisational creativity, and they execute organically like a singular cohesive entity.

The album captures seven songs, six of which are penned by Kreisberg. There is no lack of interest in this guitarist's compositional inventiveness or his tactile artistry which seems to expand with every passing year. The cd starts off with Kreisberg creating ascending guitar lines on "The Lift," which features some driving ostinato piano lines by Berjerano and the pulsing rhythm from the groove-creating duo of Clohesy and Stranahan. The music has a propulsive, fusion-like DNA. Kreisberg's precise, mercurial lines, swirl by in a flash, directionally elevating you into the ozone, offering a wellspring of ideas along the way. The music is complex and swift, employs altering rhythms, modulating tension and release, and never fails to reach its destination.

"Trust Fall" has Kreisberg leading this swinger in front of Stranahan's beautifully paced drums and Clohesy's firmly anchored bass lines. The notes flow out of the guitarist's warm-toned, hollowed-body Gibson like hot maple syrup cascading on to anxiously waiting pancakes. Bejerano offers a beautiful piano solo that just accentuates the melodicism of his approach.

Jonathan Kreisberg ( photo credit unknown)
The ballad "Everything Needs Something" starts off with Stranahan's metronomic drum lines setting the sauntering pace. Kreisberg plays the repeating melody line with sensitivity ala Jim Hall before Clohesy provides a burnish-toned bass solo that struts along, punctuating lines with confidence for several measures. Kreisberg's ES-175 Gibson is his go-to guitar, but on-demand he can modify his sound with electronics that expand his palette of available musical colors. Here, he uses a synth-style device with volume control, that allows him to explore more modern sounds to great effect. Like some other modernists, Kreisberg sparingly uses electronics to create a very clever tonal transition that bridges the cutting edge to the traditional.

"Relativity" has a Pat Metheny feel in the song's melody, drive, and in the attack and tone of Kreisberg's guitar. He modulates his sound to increase tonal interest and he has an impressive ability to stack blisteringly played arpeggios into lush layers of sound, folding them into each other, draping over the sustained melody. It's a sensuous approach that reminds me of layering cloud-like, whisked milk onto a steaming rich, dark espresso. Berjarano's piano work here is dynamic, inventive and cascading in response. Stranahan's roiling drum work follows the music with unfailing aplomb, power, and originality, as Cloheshy's bass impressively anchors the repeating line.

Kreisberg's "Know You Before" is a gorgeous ballad that plays like a romantic waltz. You can almost see a movie scene of two lovers blissfully dancing to the music in a cloud-filled courtyard. Kreisberg's compositional talent is quite fetching and original. The guitarist's melodicism and attack have certainly been touched by predecessors like guitarists Jim Hall and Pat Metheny, but he has his own style and sound, a sound that brings in layers of his prog-rock influences, as he deftly balances the modern with the traditional.

"Wild Animals That We've Seen" was first recorded on Kreisberg's Wave Upon Wave from 2014. This composition opens with a solo guitar intro that erupts with ideas before the main, modal-driven melody opens up. Berjerano's playing is explosive, impressive and recalls the intensity of a McCoy Tyner approach. When Kriesberg enters the picture he shreds with speed, confidence, and determination. Stranahan's drums never stop, volcanic and punctuated with fearless accents and boiling muscularity.

The cd closes with the Johnny Green classic "Body And Soul," the guitarist opening the song at his most sensitive. Kriesberg plays unaccompanied, sans effects, and explores the gentle harmonic possibilities of this memorable melody before the band enters the music. Clohesy's bass tone is beautiful, full, warm and carries a slow, languishing pace before he offers a soulful, pensive solo. Stranahan's brushes are gossamer-like with sensitivity. Kreisberg's imagination explores unexpected harmonic trails, interestingly interpreting the music without completely abandoning the familiar melody. How can a group take a revered classic and find a way to modernize it with artistry while retaining its essence? This group can and they brilliantly make it their own.

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