Soloist (Delmark) Fingerstyle specialist Andy Brown brings a wealth of stylistic range and technical ability…
Fingerstyle specialist Andy Brown brings a wealth of stylistic range and technical ability to his first solo-guitar outing. The tidy takes — only three of the album’s 14 tracks exceed five minutes — allow the guitarist to demonstrate his mastery of a variety of idioms, from boogie to bossa and beyond. Brown’s clean, effortless style, regardless of genre, is what constantly impresses. Impeccable as it is, his technical prowess is surpassed by a keen sense of tuneful improvisation, making the date a particularly joyous affair.
The program focuses heavily on familiar melodic gems that are recognized jazz and Tin Pan Alley standards, plus two bossa nova lovelies and a few stylistic curveballs. One is drummer Gene Krupa’s “Drum Boogie,” on which Brown has some fun with his blues-oriented chops. “Godchild,” a tune by early bebop pianist George Wallington, is the only performance on the program where Brown uses a pick, and it results in a particularly driving and rhythmically loose-jointed take. Despite its fanciful title, guitarist George Van Eps’ “Tango El Bongo” wouldn’t seem out of place in a classical guitar recital. The take is the only one on the date that was arranged in advance by Brown, and the formality of his approach further demonstrates his extensive skills. “O Barquinho,” the ’60s-era Brazilian hit, is a festive, up-tempo eruption of bossa rhythms, while “It’s the Talk of the Town,” a nearly forgotten ditty from 1933, is cast in a sentimental mood.
The finesse with which Brown lays down bass lines as he spins off single-note and chordal improvisations is remarkable, as is his use of dynamics and shifting tempi. Soloist is that rare date where every take is a pleasant surprise. —Mark Holston