Review: Janek Gwizdala "Theatre by the Sea"

May 17, 2013

The pen is mightier than the ’board. For his fifth solo CD, Janek Gwizdala moves the focus from his Fodera 5-string to his heartfelt, intimate compositions, which are impeccably cast with an intriguing mix of right- and left-coast musicians who have influenced Gwizdala’s musical persona. “Portugal” sets the pace: With Peter Erskine and Alan Pasqua in their disc-long role on drums and piano, and Janek mirroring their minimalist support, Lizzy (daughter of Fourplay guitarist Chuck) Loeb’s airy, wordless vocals give way to Mike Stern’s featured guitar. And so it goes, with undersung Stern/Yellowjackets saxophonist Bobby Franceschini featured on the gentle, nylon-guitar-tinged “Espana”; Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra trombone titan Elliot Mason burning up the brooding “Fooling Houdini”; Pasqua claiming the soul-dipped title track; Randy Brecker stepping out over Gwizdala’s funky-but-finessed muted groove on “Randroid”; and young Brooklyn guitar phenom Nir Felder widening eyes on “Chicago Opener.” Attuned to the blowing bliss he establishes for his bandmates, Janek takes the spotlight on the Chick-ish “Erdnase” with a spanning, storytelling solo that leaves us wanting more. This time around, the compositions come first.

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