You’ve reached a Premium article. To continue reading, please login or start a 3-MONTH TRIAL SUBSCRIPTION for just 99 cents/month. You’ll receive unlimited digital access plus a complimentary issue of our award-winning print magazine.
Join Our Newsletter
Join thousands of other jazz enthusiasts and get new music, artists, album, events and more delivered to your inbox.
By Neil Tesser
On eight previous albums, guitarist Tom Guarna has worked almost exclusively with piano, bass and drums; this album revisits the organ trio format of his 2005 debut. Reimagine won’t make waves or induce shocks, but it brims with solid, often excellent work from all concerned.
Guarna plays with a full, rounded tone and his phrasing updates the iconic, unhurried swing of Wes Montgomery: On reliably tuneful solos, his legato passages still allow each note to briefly stand alone. Pat Bianchi’s popularity among peers stems from his gleaming versatility, which harbors slyly spectacular bursts of invention — he doesn’t mess around with the organ’s panoply of timbres, mainly because he doesn’t need to. Drummer Jason Tiemann operates on two levels. Big picture, he drives the beat with force and fire; detail work, his riffs and fills atop the beat, always warrant a second hearing. His cymbals offer a thousand points of light.
The distinguishing factor lurks in the album title, as Guarna and company recast an eclectic range of songs not found in most organ trios’ repertoires. I doubt we’ll soon see another program with tunes by McCoy Tyner, Lennie Tristano, Clifford Jordan and Sonny Sharrock. “Victory Ball,” marked by Tristano’s complex unison lines, and Donald Byrd’s “We Six” (written for Paul Chambers’ 1957 date Whims of Chambers) both translate neatly from piano-and-horns to guitar-and-organ. Bianchi slips into church mode for Sharrock’s “Who Does She Hope To Be,” which idles at the 1970s intersection of rock, soul and jazz, and Tyner’s well-known “Search for Peace.” On the final track, Guarna digs out a little-known Billy Drummond composition, “Dubai,” using an octave generator to enhance the melody’s exoticism.
I applaud the transposition of such deep cuts to the organ trio. But in a project called Reimagine, I’d expected a grander reinvention of these songs in terms of rhythm, tempo, form — whatever would provide another perspective apart from instrumental color. That doesn’t happen here, and despite all the solid swinging, it feels like a missed opportunity.