Blessed with a marvelous tone and a swinging melodic sense, guitarist Larry Newcomb's latest album is a tribute to some individuals who had a significant impact on him as a guitarist such as the late Dick Hall, Jim Hall, and Bucky Pizzarelli (who Newcomb studied under and adds his acoustic archtop guitar, mostly playing rhythm in a Freddie Green fashion to 7 or the 11 tracks) and in other ways as his family. He adds comments to various selections that link the song to a particular individual or individuals. Newcomb and his quartet of pianist Eric Olsen, bassist Dmitri Kolesnik and drummer Jimmy Madison are also joined by vocalist Leigh Jonaitis on two selections.
Newcomb captivates with his beautiful tone, single note lines and carefully placed chords with his swinging backing band starting with a sonorous "I Remember You," as well as the Cole Porter gem "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," the Jim Hall recording of which inspired him to become a jazz guitarist. Jim Hall's duet with Ron Carter of "Alone Together," inspired the rendition here with Kolesnik's bass being the dominant solo voice with Newcomb's only solo judiciously employing chords against a spare backing. "Morningside Heights," one of Newcomb's seven originals, is a driving blues with Pizzarelli adding a short, rhythmically emphatic chord-rooted solo after effervescent solos from Newcomb and Olsen. Another original, "Band of Brothers," dedicated to his sons, is a lovely waltz with Olsen's adding deft accompaniments along with a solo complementing the leader's playing on a charming original. Jonaitis adds her lovely vocal to "One Heart Ain't As Great As Two," with Pizzarelli's rhythmic chording anchoring this performance to which Newcomb adds pithy obligatos to her vocal, as well as "Love Is Here," with its breezy samba groove and Newcomb's understated support and charming solo.
Much of the charm of the performances on "Living Tribute," are because of the restraint often shown along with the invention and lyricism manifest throughout in the solos and the solid ensemble playing. This is a jewel of a recording of swinging, guitar jazz.
I received a review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the July-August 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 373). Here are the two guitarists performing "Swing To Bop."