Chicago guitarist Steve Ramsdell's sophomore release, "Looking For..." is a sheer delight. Backed by a talented group of local jazz artists, Ramsdell moves from swinging hard bop and experimental modern jazz flourishes to gentle and highly effective guitar pieces - all originals composed by the guitarist himself. I've been listening to this album for days and still find more to appreciate with each listen.
"Barrio Aria" starts things off with great energy and reverals Ramsdell's jazz chops to be first rate. But it is a piece like "Bright Morning" that just leaves the listener gasping at the beautiful feeling Ramsdell imbues his playing with as he utilizes classical, jazz and folk touches. Vocalist Grazyna Augusik adds wordless vocals to the deceptively complex, yet airy composition, "Lisboa Siesta," which also showcases Dan Delorenzo's acoustic bass.
"Eleven Rex" is a fascinating piece with excellent support from Tim Mulvenna on percussion and Tim Siesser on electric bass. Meanwhile, Spider Saloff's vocals enhance the hypnotic Latin-flavored "The Wait." "Cascades" and the fabulous "Salubrious" revel in complexities, while "Rain Wind" steers into chill-inducing loveliness. Other great tunes like "Red Box," "Chiado," "An Ocean Away," the title track and the haunting "Early Departure" will enthrall listeners with the mature and tasteful songwriting and arrangements, the sensitive interplay from band members like drummer Andre Beasly and pianist John Erickson, and, of course, Ramsdell's masterful playing. If you are "looking for..." a great album of guitar originals, Ramsdell's new release is the place to start.