The twenty-something jazz guitarist from Maine named Ryan Blotnick is rapidly emerging as a force to be reckoned with. He first got mentioned in this space a few years ago as a member of a really good global party band called Akoya Afrobeat. Right about the same time that P.D.P came out, Blotnick released his own album — his first — and it’s equally impressive … but for entirely different reasons.
Of Music Needs You, it’s been said that it “contains not only beautiful compositions, but really some deep and honest improvising. I enjoy it very much, and recommend it highly.” That’s no music critic who wrote such heady praise, that was long-time jazz guitar giant John Abercrombie.
In checking this out for myself, I’d have to say that John’s got a point. Blotnick’s composing pen puts a welcome emphasis on complex melodic lines that reveal a deep understanding of jazz history far beyond someone that young should be able to comprehend so well. The waltzing “Winter Melt” is a sophisticated use of chromatic scales while “Thinning Air” seems to effortlessly float untethered to any time signature. “Music Needs You” states a beautiful melody that incorporates some classical influences before improvising off of it in advanced bop style. And those are just the first three songs.
Blotnick’s approach to his guitar is highly mature as well. He chooses his notes carefully without sounding forced. His warm tone is in the neighborhood of Jim Hall’s and Pat Metheny’s. As a complement to his songwriting tendencies, Blotnick is always listening closely for the melody when he plays. His backing band of sax, piano, bass and drums is sympathetic to the reserved, airy sound that’s part of Blotnick’s vision for his music.
With a start like this, I’m going to be sure to follow this guy’s career. I think he’s going to be a major player on the scene for decades to come.