|Cross Country Lines|
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2. How Deep is the Ocean
4. Polka Dots and Moonbeams
5. Body and Soul
6. Once I Loved
8. Someday My Prince Will Come
9. Well, You Needn't
11. Stella by Starlight
12. Alone Together
Detailed Description / Musicians
Mark Kleinhaut & John Stowell Cross Country Lines
When globe-trotting guitarist John Stowell got together with Albany, NY-based jazz guitar virtuoso Mark Kleinhaut for a six-string summit in southern Vermont, their only game plan was to push the envelope on a set of well-known standards. They had already played half a dozen duo gigs at The Speakeasy in Albany, so their next step was to go into Guilford Sound, a plush recording studio located high in the Green Mountains of Vermont, to document their rare chemistry. The result is a post-Jim Hall two-guitar manifesto in which familiar heads, themes and melodies are cleverly concealed and only revealed near the very end of pieces.
As Kleinhaut explains, “I think you hear Jim Hall’s shadow in both of our playing. We both come from that introspective, quieter side of jazz defined by players like Jim, Bill Evans, and Lee Konitz. And in the context of two guitars, it lends itself to very intimate and quiet conversations.”
The two guitarists mesh so beautifully, and the playing is so entwined that it is hard to differentiate where one player’s line ends and the other’s begins. The easy-going vibe displayed between the two guitarists on this remarkably copacetic session is engaging and at times entrancing. “It’s so natural playing with John,” says Kleinhaut. “...because he really hears the whole sound, and we’re playing where it’s not about us as individuals; we just have a conversation and the resulting music is more than the sum of its parts.”
That attitude carries through on the dozen familiar vehicles that comprise Cross Country Lines (the wry title refers to the fact that Stowell traveled cross country from his home base in Oregon to collaborate with Upstate New Yorker Kleinhaut in the solitude of New England; and that they are exchanging lines throughout this simpatico session). Their off-the-cuff approach to playing standards proved to be very liberating for both players.
With Kleinhaut coming out of the left channel of your sound system (playing his Ribbecke Halfling guitar) and Stowell on the right (playing his fold-up Soloette travel guitar), the two establish their immediate chemistry from the opening track, a gorgeous interpretation of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s alluring bossa nova “Triste,” one of three Jobim tunes on this intimate encounter. Both are naturally melodic improvisers and exceedingly good accompanists, as “Triste” reveals from jump.
While that lovely and eminently accessible bossa nova offers a gentle entry point into Cross Country Lines, on the next tune some real six-string magic happens that will make guitar aficionados sit up and take notice. Their flowing, contrapuntal conversation on a rendition of Irving Berlin’s oft-covered 1932 gem “How Deep Is The Ocean” has them easily shifting roles (chords, bass lines, melody) and completing each other’s thoughts without directly stating the familiar theme until Stowell finally does so at the 2:54 mark. Everything is implied, in the great tradition of Jim Hall.
For a highly personalized acoustic rendition of John Coltrane’s haunting minor key blues “Equinox” (from 1964’s Coltrane’s Sound), Kleinhaut plays a vintage Gibson while Stowell picks on a vintage Martin, both instruments courtesy of Guilford Sound’s well stocked equipment lockers. Again, they studiously avoid stating the theme until near the end of the piece, allowing
them to engage in some freewheeling telepathic exchanges that are more about overlap than call-and-response. Likewise, on a delicate reading of Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” they don’t reference the familiar melody until nearly four minutes into the song, which allows for considerable stretching and thoughtful comping by each of these empathetic players.
“John and I were discussing that we’re playing tunes that most of our listeners already know quite well. Because they are so familiar with the tunes we could take this opportunity to get more immediately into the improvisations by getting away from a direct statement of the melody on many of the tracks. ...,” says Kleinhaut. “...When I play the head out front I find my solo builds as an organic outgrowth of the melody. But without it, I find I have more freedom to create material from scratch. You get to jump right into the deep water, which is pretty exciting. You know, sink or swim”
Their clever reimagining of “Body And Soul” slyly skates around the theme while employing a kind of pointillism that renders the piece their own. Then it’s back to a bossa nova bag on Jobim’s “Once I Loved” (notice Kleinhaut’s ‘spanking’ of the strings as he comps, a quality he says he was encouraged to develop by his mentor, the late Ted Dunbar).
For their take on Miles Davis’ “Solar,” Stowell returns to the Martin acoustic (with all strings tuned down a major third) while Mark stays on his Ribbecke. Once again, they extrapolate from the outset, only stating the theme in the last 30 seconds of the tune while injecting some swing energy along the way. And on a lovely rendition of “Someday My Prince Will Come,” the buoyant waltz from the 1937 Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, they’re both playing acoustics once again and taking great liberties with the melody, as only a truly copacetic duo could.
“I think that Mark and I both have a strong internal pulse, which allows us to imply the time in some open conversations that we both enjoy,” says Stowell. “We like improvising together and playing off of each other in a way that sounds like written counterpoint when it works well. We also both have a compositional approach to improvising that serves us well in the duo.”
That same sense of telepathy and interplay is present on radical reimaginings of Thelonious Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t,” Jobim’s dreamy “Insensatez” and the classic jazz jamming vehicle, “Stella By Starlight,” which opens with an unaccompanied Kleinhaut intro and segues to a few choruses of unaccompanied Stowell before the two finally come together and fall into a relaxed, swinging groove at the 2:37 mark. The collection closes with another stellar example of this duo’s easy contrapuntal interplay on a singular romp through “Alone Together.”
Kleinhaut credits Stowell for bringing a lot to the table in this duo encounter. “John has so many strengths as a player but I think #1 is his capacity to really listen and respond while drawing on his substantial personal vocabulary of unique chord voicings and melodic ideas. John just doesn’t sound like anyone else! I find that playing with him allows me to be very adventurous and open to taking risks. It’s a wonderful feeling of security and comfort, that no matter what I play, if it goes sideways, he’ll go with me and we can together navigate our way out of tight corners and it all ends up sounding perfectly intentional.”
That feeling is called trust, and it permeates every tune of this very special duo encounter between two highly sensitive, remarkably accomplished six-stringers.
Bill Milkowski is a regular contributor to Down Beat and Jazziz magazines. He is also the author of “JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius” and recipient of the 2015 Bruce Lundvall Award.
| ||Available Items by Mark Kleinhaut|| ||About Mark Kleinhaut|| |
Residing in Albany, NY as of fall, 2011, Mark Kleinhaut is an accomplished jazz guitarist recognized for his elegant melodic improvisations, striking technical execution and responsive accompaniment, bringing depth and excitement to every performance and ensemble. Well steeped in the jazz tradition, and happy to play “standards” with anyone at a moment’s notice, Mark also has a taste for modern and forward sounds incorporating a myriad of influences. Mark relishes the opportunity to create original pieces, and has over 50 recorded compositions spanning five CDs released on the Invisible Music label, including a Jazzweek Top 20 disc with saxophonist Bobby Watson and another album with trumpeter Tiger Okoshi. His latest project (to be released in early 2013) is a guitar duo with 7-string player Neil Lamb, which explores spontaneous compositions in a completely “free” setting.
Mark Kleinhaut worked in Cleveland, OH for 5 years prior to Albany, where he performed with some of the top local jazz talent at clubs such as Nighttown and The Bop Stop and with a trio he formed with bassist Kip Reed and drummer Matt Perko. He also played a variety of festivals, concerts and outdoor gatherings, including gigs with the North Coast Jazz Collective and a concert at the Blossom Summer Music Festival with the Cleveland Orchestra (“Bravo Broadway”).
For nearly 20 years, Mark lived near Portland, Maine where he led his own group with Jim Lyden and Les Harris Jr., collaborated with local legend Brad Terry, bassists Sam Sherry and Josh Davis, drummers Mark Macksoud and Phil Verrill, pianist Thomas Snow and vocalist Tracey MacLean, among many others. Mark was frequently called to accompany visiting jazz performers in concert with artists such as Greg Abate, Jerry Bergonzi, Sheyvonne Wright, Alex Foster, and Scott Reeves. Mark’s tenure in Maine was also notable for his activism, serving as president of the Maine Jazz Alliance where he was instrumental in bringing a long list of jazz luminaries to Southern Maine and live jazz to thousands of school children through MJA’s “Jazz Goes to School” program. Mark also served on the boards of the Maine Jazz Festival, Maine Jazz Camp and the University Of Southern Maine School Of Music Advisory Board. Mark has taught privately, was adjunct faculty at University of Southern Maine, and has conducted clinics and workshops at Universities and High Schools, including Bowdoin College and the University of Maine. Mark’s education includes a BA in Music from Rutgers University, where he studied under the direction of the late Ted Dunbar.
Mark Kleinhaut is an endorser for the Halfling Jazz Guitar by Ribbecke Guitars, and his website www.markkleinhaut.com has for ten years been part of Jazzcorner.com, a jazz destination that has flourished under the boundless energy of its founder Lois Gilbert.
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