Dave Juarez – Round Red Light (2011)

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For a musician who has devoted his life since early childhood toward his craft and studied for many years as well as earning his stripes in the bars of the great jazz cities of the world, the release of that first album has to be a feeling of relief, elation and accomplishment. That day came for Barcelona’s own Dave Juarez on April 19, when this guitarist issued Round Red Light.

Taking an interest in guitar at a very young age, Juarez studied at Conservatory of Amsterdam before heading out to New York to the the jazz world’s preeminent bar curcuit, and continued studies at SUNY Purchase (it’s also where he recorded this album). There, he learned under John Abercrombie, who opined that Juarez “doesn’t sound like like anybody else, and it’s obvious to me that he has a great control of the guitar.” Juarez does pull from many sources for his style (Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery come to mind first), but reveals a wider diversity of influences: a more modern, rocking jazz guitar sound more in the vien of a Kurt Rosenwinkel, it’s a certain fusion-ish style that can be traced back to—who else?—Abercrombie.

For Round Red Light, Juarez goes with a no-nonsense quintet consisting of John Escreet (piano), Lauren Falls (bass), Bastian Weinhold (drums) and the quickly ascending saxophonist from Vancouver, Seamus Blake. Blake, as you might recall, is part of that BANN super-combo whose debut record As You Lke from earlier this year stood out for all the right reasons.

Juarez in fact gives Blake much of the spotlight, a gracious leader who figures out which of the two lead instruments can bring out the best of his nine self-composed tunes at any given moment of the song. The driving, thematic lines on “Montpellier View,” for instance, are amplified by a Blake/Juarez unison run, and Blake’s joyful articulation sets the pace for rhe song, and Juarez’s slightly ragged tone that follows serves as the foil. However, the leader’s supple lines come to the fore on “Round Red Light,” a modern wistful melody where again Blake’s big, round tone plays a major role in shaping it. “Lonely Brooklyn,” Juarez wrote a tune that takes on subtly shifting rhythms with “Lonely Brooklyn” and Escreet’s piano there is brisk and imaginative.

“Serotonina” is an application of bop techniques that Juarez is able to update that by nimbly fold in a fuzzy guitar sound without making it disruptive, but his straightahead discharge of notes sizzles in the good tradition of the style’s forbears. Juarez doesn’t make a lot of overt references musically to his Spanish motherland, but the hometown tribute to “Luna de Barcelona” is a notable exception. Though the melody has a flavor from Spain, it’s done within the context of the group’s 21st century jazz sonic character, yet another instance where the guitarist doesn’t take any idea whole, but incorporates it into his own signature.

These days, Juarez is back at Amsterdam, making a name for himself on the Continent. But he hadn’t forgotten the lessons he learned in NYC. With a fresh tone, a solid compositional skill set and an attention to the details, Juarez has the means to go anywhere he wants. Round Red Light is a another product of Posi-Tone Records. Pay a visit to Dave Juarez’s website here.

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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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