Ryan Meagher – Tone (2012)

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Guitarist Ryan Meagher describes his music in very straightforward terms; he calls it “modern jazz for the indie rocker.” I’m no indie rocker myself, but I’m always heartened to see jazz guys trying to attract that crowd, because if you can’t make jazz appealing for younger generations, it’s doomed for extinction. And, adjusting jazz for the ears of Gen X’s and Y’s is no easy task so that it’s both ingratiating to contemporary sensibilities while respectful of tradition. I would imagine it involves more creativity that merely regurgitating what was being played fifty years ago.

So, you kind of get the gist of the approach taken by Meagher for his second album, Tone. He brings in like-minded individuals like Matt Blostein on saxes, Geoff Kraly on electric bass, Vinnie Sperrazza on drums and Kneebody founder Shane Endsley on trumpet.

Endsley and Blotstein generally represent the jazz ends of things, while Kraly and Sperrazza are disposed toward rock. And right in the middle is Meagher, who sides with either the rhythm section or the horn section depending on what the song prescribes. The first four songs tend to work these opposing forces against each other more, and Meagher puts the horns right in the middle of the harmonic action, using them in tandem, together and even around each other. These songs have those indie rock motifs, but it’s not until track four, “Sherner” before they truly rock. The other three use extended melodies, and unfold unhurriedly. Endsley’s pure, unadorned delivery provides the perfect temperament for this kind of approach, and Blotstein is similarly even-tempered, even on “Sherner.”

“Farad’s Challenge” and “Alpenglow” were largely made up on the spot; both are showcases for Endsley’s improvisation acumen. Meagher himself prefers a tone that’s a little rugged on the edges but doesn’t call too much attention to itself. He’s more interested in composition and team effort on this album, but listening close to his solos reveal that they are thoughtful and dig deep into the harmony.

Like Meagher’s guitar, Meagher’s collection of songs don’t make their virtues known by hitting you on the head with them; they rarely come out and grab you, you have to move toward them. But doing so solves the mystery of his tunes. Ryan Meagher is making jazz on his own terms early in his career, and I say, more power to him.

Tone released April 2 on Fresh Sound New Talent Records. Visit Ryan Meagher’s website for more info.

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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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