Born in Toronto, living in Brooklyn (where, it seems, all the good musicians aspire to call home), jazz guitar specialist Avi Granite has recently put forth Snow Umbrellas. It’s his third CD as a leader, and the first with his new quartet Verse, comprised of Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Jerry DeVore (acoustic bass) and Owen Howard (drum). A collection of Granite’s original music prompted by personal episodes in Granite’s life, the guitarist makes an album that stresses composition and group coaction over his own tasteful guitar skills.
Snow Umbrellas ranges from straight ahead post-bop to free jazz, but the distinct personalities of the performers and Granite’s angular song construction unifies these disparate tracks into a connected whole. The “distinct personalities” part is especially true of the band’s horn player. Alessi, a noted avant-garde trumpeter since the early 90’s, has a distinctive, fragile, contemplative approach not too unlike another luminary of the style, Natsuki Tamura. Given the dispersed nature of Granite’s compositions, his voice not only conforms to Granite’s vision, it often leads the charge.
Granite’s stated influences of John Scofield and Joe Lovano come right to the fore on the descriptively titled “Like John,” it’s lazy, loping funk capturing the spirit of the early 90s Scofield quartet with the tenor saxophonist. “Four For 4″ draws you in not just because of the unbounded performing by each of the players, but the way Granite wrings odd timbres from his guitar, and the intuitive interaction between him and Alessi. Granite gets the rhythm section intricately involved in the melody of “Tricycle Dreams” by having Howard and DeVore follow the cadence of Alessi, as Granite himself spins counterpoint lines.