Jack Broad – Current (2008)

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by S. Victor Aaron

OK, so there’s already a whole lot of great 2010 music to consider (you’ll see), and yet here I am looking at a 2008 release? This is one that escaped my notice when it first came out in September of that year, but we need to park the new release train to take a slight look back, because Jack Broad’s Current demands it.

Like most of the parade of artists I’ve been hootin’ and hollerin’ about here lately, you’re most wonder “who the hell is he?” Broad is a guitarist, teacher and composer. He hails from Cincinnati, got his music degree from Miami (Ohio) and learned from many of the greats often mentioned on this space, including Adam Rogers, John Abercrombie, Kenny Garrett, Billy Hart and Frank Gambale. He moved to the Big Apple in 2001 and has performed with Don Braden. Jon Irabagon, Tim Kuhl and Bruce Arnold, among others. But when he put forth his first effort Current a year and a half ago, I suspect that’s when he really made his imprint.

I say that, because Current doesn’t sound at all like a CD that sounds like someone’s first time out; I even looked in vain for prior releases by Broad, assuming this album was not his first. But no, Broad came to his first sessions as a leader prepared, with a highly developed sound that’s also highly distinctive. Broad’s brand of fusion stands out not just because he’s a fine guitarist and composer, because these days you can be both and still fail to make a lasting impression. Everything on this record is Jack alone: the production, the guitars, the programming, and the compositions, which all but assures that his fingerprints are going to show. But Broad goes further, because of his adept use of all those electronics.

So OK, there’s elements of drum ‘n’ bass in his fusion and some songs start out like a solicitation to the dancefloor, but he doesn’t use these artificial components as a crutch, because his guitar remains the centerpiece of his music. The programming and synths add colors, rhythms and melodic enhancements in careful measures. It’s a delicate balance achieved by only a few guitarists, most notably Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, and especially Allan Holdsworth.

Broad brandishes many influences, but it’s impossible to pin him down to being fixated on any of them. The atmospheric pieces like “Realm” or “Rise And Shine” might be inspired by David Gilmour, while the galloping title cut follows the tasteful construction and tone of a Larry Carlton or Kurt Rosenwinkel. On the Texas blues demeanor of “Swamp Witch,” he manages to bridge the gap between Albert King and Bill Frisell. For the sinister “Cold Cut”, he pours down a waterfall of notes on top of a arachnidan synth bass line. It’s a similar guitar attack that he uses on “World Line,” only on the latter tune, he skillfully navigates through shifting time signatures.

Elsewhere, Broad weaves compelling textures in which his guitar lines serves as a conduit for bright, detailed melodies. That’s the beauty of a song like “Emanations,” where he blurs the line between harmonics and improvising. On “Never Coming Back,” he dispenses with soloing altogether, leaving it stand as an instrumental power ballad that gets by on the layered textures alone. The closing track “Nu Sound (For The Old Soul)” veers closer to straight up electronica dance music than I am usually willing to venture, but in the end, Broad’s nasty guitar lead pulls me in.

Like Oz Noy’s Schizophrenic from last year, Jack Broad makes a guitar record that balances fun with fancy fretwork, only making those dazzling runs with his fingers in the places where they belong. Current‘s songs and spacey atmospherics stay with you as much as Broad’s guitar wizardry does. That, I suspect, is what Jack Broad intended. This is an impressive debut album of a fully-formed, well-rounded talent who has more than likely just begun to show us what he is capable of.

Visit Jack’s myspace site and sample the songs for yourself here.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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