Guitarist Krantz is a bonafide musical visionary, having forged a singular compositional style and harmonic language, followed by a groovebased group improvisational approach, all of which has earned him his select reputation as an artist guiding jazz in new directions. Krantz’s recent penchant for sprinkling in vocals, as well as interpreting choice rock and rap tunes live, has led to his highyanticipated first “singer-songwriter” CD. The result, Howie 61, is a masterwork; ten songs packed with angular hooks and wry, provocative lyrics, delivered in an off-center vocal or spoken-word style. The tracks, which are distributed among five world class bass/ drum tandems, each retain Krantz’s signature raw, loose edge, with his temperamentally brilliant guitar work as the unifying thread.
The title opener, a Dylan nod with a sparse, Steely Dan-ish soundscape, rides Owen Biddle’s syncopated throb. James Genus and Keith Carlock stank up the lone instrumental, an exploratory cover of Ice Cube’s “Check Yo Self.” In a prime pairing, John Patitucci and Charley Drayton crackle on the backbeat rockers “The Bad Guys” and “U Strip It,” with Patitucci adding upright ostinato heft on the punkier latter piece. The intuitive pulse between Tal Wilkenfeld and Vinnie Colaiuta invigorates the driving “Can’t Stand to Rock” (containing Krantz’s most searing solo) and the brooding “Son of a Scientist,” where Tal creates in the crevices and adds upper-register emotion. “How the West Was Left,” the closing power ballad is locked down tight by Pino Palladino and Jeremy Stacey, while Krantz sings Rundgrenesque hooks and shares picks with Paul Stacey on slide guitar. Visit Howie 61 and follow the road forward.