Review by Brad Walseth
Gary Tu is a talented young jazz guitarist, whose style reminds one of a Wes Montgomery (sans the octave doubling) with just a dash of Metheny. On Look East, the artist displays his guitar, composition and arrangement talents in a trio setting with drummer Andre Beasley and Bassist Kurt Schweitz - and it is a quite engaging set that is the end result.
Intriguingly divided into a first half of original tunes and a second half of jazz classics, Look East allows plenty of opportunity for Tu to display his graceful, mostly-uneffected single string charms. The opening title track is enhanced by the guitarists wind chime harmonics and robust riffing over a sure-footed rhythm section. Bassist Schweitz adds a harmonious solo here and is a consistent counterpoint to Tu throughout the recording.
I'll admit to somewhat glossing over "The Cube" the first couple of times through, but upon repeated listening this original tune has won me over with its toughness and tight changes and it is now one of my favorites. If there is a "hit single" on the album it is subsequent "The Road to the Sky" where Tu adds in some tasteful effects, soloing over a catchy pop/jazz progression. "Sun Rise," on the other hand, is a sunny piece where Tu shows his skills in a bossa setting; while "Passing Solitude" is an exemplary example of quietude and economy in playing.
In a clever twist, the second half of Look East is filled with jazz classics that were not originally guitar-based tunes. An up-tempo, somewhat Brazilian version of Steve Swallow's "Falling Grace," and Sonny Rollins' beloved "Airegin" are both presented in wonderful guitar-centric arrangements - the former again embellished with Tu's sparkling chimes, the latter in a delightfully hot session that may be the highlight of the album. Finally, the Frank Foster waltzing standard "Simone" is caressed beautifully, before Tu and the band (especially drummer Beasley) go out in high style with an ecstatic version of Miles Davis' "Milestones."
A clever and pleasing guitarist, Tu is a nice change up from an atmosphere filled with guitarists who want to be the next Al Dimeola. He obviously realizes that good tunes and good playing are a nice combination to strive for, and he succeeds quite well in this first solo venture. Look East is a worthy addition to your jazz collection, as well as leading one to keep a watch on this artist as his career progresses.