Review by Brad Walseth
Have been catching cuts of Jonathan Kreisberg's new album The South of Everywhere coming at me from all directions lately. His guitar sound is immediately recognizable and it is pretty clear that the artist's songwriting and playing is catching on with jazz fans everywhere. Backed by a strong supporting cast, including up-and-coming young star Gary Versace (Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts, Lee Konitz, Loren Stillman) on piano, Kreisberg presents a nice collection of originals in various styles, along with a couple covers.
The title track is a delight, with Kreisberg's melodic guitar playing falling in that area between Pat Metheny and Wes Montgomery that has so much to offer. Bassist Matt Penman and drummer Mark Ferber go beyond simply propping the song and actively contribute to the energy, while Versace shows why is in such demand as supportive player or soloist with his sensitive touch. Meanwhile, the swinging "Strange Resolution" showcases Kresiberg's feel for writing clear and satisfying lines, and includes British transplant Will Vinson on some tasty alto.
The mysterious "Kiitos" (Finnish for gratitude) starts out open and full of spaces before Kresiberg introduces a 6/8 riff as the second half theme. Some clean distortion on the solo adds to the soaring nature of this interesting composition. The guitarist's explorative nature also shows up in a 7/8 trio version of "Stella by Starlight" that shows that there are still new ways to work with the old standards yet. The band here are very much in sync on this hot arrangement, everyone solos and Kreisberg burns it up on guitar, at times recalling Jim Hall's harmonies played with more velocity. Despite his impressive technique, Kreisberg thankfully never overplays and also seeks to serve the song.
The waltzing "Funeral for the Ants" is a highlight with its dark textures. Vinson again proves a perfect foil for Kreisberg's angular distorted yet melodic licks, while Versace adds some inventive cascades of his own over a tumultuous rhythm section. Not afraid to slow it down and get unabashedly romantic, Kreisberg offers the ballad "Elena" that is as fresh and uncliched as the sun and the wind on a Mediterranean isle. Versace offers some stellar piano work to go with Kreisberg's smooth lines on this lovely gem.
Ending the album with the "outside" "Altered Ego" - an almost Latin-sounding composition of engaging complexity, before bringing it all home with a fairly straight-ahead trio take on Irving Berlin's rarely-covered "The Best Thing for You," is a pretty clear indication of the breadth of this musician/composer's talent and interests. There can be no doubting that this guitarist is a major talent to keep our eyes on; in fact we may be witnessing the future of jazz guitar in the worthy hands of Jonathan Kreisberg.