Chicago-based finger-style guitarist Adam Steffeck’s debut album Aviator seems like the hallmark of a veteran jazz instrumentalist. Perhaps Adam’s self-produced and engineered EP Origin, and his time honing his chops in the Chicago indie circuit, have seasoned Steffeck beyond his 20-something years.
As with his EP, Steffeck is the sole writer and instrumentalist on Aviator. No doubt producer, engineer, mixer and guitarist Don Ross was also instrumental in capturing Adam Steffeck’s vision and subtlety on his Cool Jacques Music debut.
He kicks things off in fine form with the track, “Take a Right, Then Straight Ahead,” The song is a captivating opener, with a dense and percussive feeling initially. That quickly gives way to a complex and tasteful harmonic structure. Steffeck, employing only his Revival RG27 guitar, paints a full-band feeling using his own percussive effects, his finger-picking style and a keen sense of melody. The song’s sections invoke the complexity of classical, the expressiveness of jazz and flavors which defy description.
The title track starts with a light touch of harmonics interwoven with a light rhythm. The song quickly evolves into a moving and uplifting journey which is as breathtaking in its scope. Meanwhile, “Like Clockwork” demonstrates how Adam Steffeck can paint with his music. The only track played on a carbon fiber, single-fanned fret guitar, it is full of arpeggios and multi-textured sections which tie in rock and jazz elements to make a complex stew that leaves the listener hungry of more. At 3:30, “Like Clockwork” just seems to build more and more, ending too soon.
“The Moment We Wait For” seems to start with a touch of melancholy. Perhaps one of the most harmonically straight forward songs on Aviator, the song is wistful and plaintive. Halfway into the track, the emotional edge seems to bloom – revealing a more revealing inner core. “Wendigo” kicks things up a notch, with a fast-paced multi-textured assault added by Steffeck’s percussive effects. A recapitulation of the main theme occurs halfway in, quickly followed by gentle harmonics and a fiery build to the song’s denouement.
“Buried in Dust and Ruin,” the closing track, builds on the proceeding 11 songs which a direct and evocative theme. Adam Steffeck’s playing only adds to the emotional subtext of this track. It conjures up visions of a fast-moving storm: Grace and deadly power. The song, and indeed all of Aviator is cinematic in scale, bold in concept and brilliant in execution. This is, indeed, a fine debut.
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