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New York City-born guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg wowed South Florida audiences while attending the University of Miami from 1990 to 1994, simultaneously recording albums with his fusion trio and his progressive rock band. Since returning to New York after graduation and turning toward traditional jazz, his dozen releases include a 2003 trio disc with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Bill Stewart and a 2013 solo-guitar document. What Kreisberg had never done prior to the new Capturing Spirits — JKQ Live! was release a concert recording.
The guitarist, longtime drummer Colin Stranahan, pianist Martin Bejerano and bassist Matt Clohesy were recorded live in March 2019 at Jazz Schmiede in Düsseldorf, Germany. The fact that the bandmates didn’t know they were being recorded until afterward contributes to the seven-song set’s energy and honesty. Kreisberg’s compositions are prominent, from the opening “The Lift,” with its rhythmic shell game of uneven time signatures and impressive, crowd-pleasing solos by the bandleader and Bejerano, to the improvisational, accent-laden rave-up “Relativity.”
The simpler, spacious ballad “Everything Needs Something” features a gorgeous solo by Clohesy; sparse, standout accompaniment by Stranahan and Bejerano; and effects by Kreisberg that hark back to his pre-trad career. And the guitarist’s unaccompanied intro on “Wild Animals We’ve Seen” spotlights his dexterity and rarefied technique, all leading to 11 minutes of risk-taking interplay that might've been impossible if the bandmates were looking at a recording light. The lone cover, a creative, heartfelt rendering of “Body and Soul,” concludes the set and will leave this album’s listeners wishing they’d been there. — Bill Meredith