1. City Market
2. Street Fair
3. Bull St. Scramble
6. Guitar Bar
7. Up River
8. Twilight Garden
9. Tybee at Dawn
10. Ghost Tour
Mark Kleinhaut - guitar
Neil Lamb - guitar
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MARK KLEINHAUT & NEIL LAMB
Jones Street (Invisible Music)
by Albert Brooks
Savannah, Georgia is a great city of cultural richness and dualities that are often, but not always, in stark contrast to one another, e.g., Southern gentility interlaced with a down home friendliness, diverse traditional cuisines embellished with modernist presentments, a historical legacy that makes accommodation for the new, Flannery O’Connor and Clarence Thomas, Johnny Mercer and Ben Tucker. With respect to these latter two, we see clear examples of where the aforementioned dualities may exist within a musical context. Mercer was both a great lyricist and composer, who very early in his life was exposed to the black “geechee” culture of Savannah and its music. Tucker, a long-term Savannah resident, is both a prolific composer who has won innumerable plaudits for his compositions and also a virtuoso of the acoustic bass.
Mark Kleinhaut, whom many of you know from the local scene as a jazz guitarist who has worked with the likes of Bobby Watson, Tiger Okoshi, Greg Abate and Dan Faulk, among others, not to mention local stalwarts such as Joe Barna, Adam Siegel and Dylan Canterbury, is a transplanted Albanian, by way of New Jersey, Maine and Ohio, and who has had his own experience with Savannah as a “hot house” for spontaneous creativity with the recording there of his new cd, Jones Street. Jones Street is a guitar duet recording, following in the esteemed tradition of that particular genre including such noteworthy couplings as: Bucky and John Pizzarelli’s Swinging Sevens, Joe Pass and John Pisano’s Duets, and Jim Hall and Bill Frisell’s Hemispheres. Jones Street is a paean to the sites and scenes in Savannah, from which it lovingly and aptly takes each of its ten song titles.
While the pair are not native Savannahans, the session nevertheless reflects the City’s pull of diverse elements and even opposites to engender a synergistic transformative effect. I understand that by day Lamb is an engineer and Kleinhaut a banker, but as you listen to this cd, you will not help but note and feel the strong jazz bona fides of these musicians, who are equally conversant in the blues, classical guitar and indigenous folk forms. Above all, you will appreciate that these guys know their instruments, they can play them with virtuosic flair and, in Savannah, they were very much in tune with each other.
The cd opens with “City Market”, a tune that evokes the excitement of that particular venue in Savannah with Lamb running bass-lines and “comping” to Kleinhaut’s speedy and deft single note runs and chordal lyricism. “Street Fair” is reminiscent to me of the contained joy one may feel at a country fair. The song is interesting and appealing both because of its blend of jazzy and folksy elements but primarily because of its pastoral attitude and underlying feeling of excitement. On “Bull Street Scramble”, Lamb and Kleinhaut engage in a conversational trading and, at the same time, supporting of each that evidences the simpatico nature of their interaction. “Trickster” opens with a kind of stabbing rhythm that has an intertwining, sinuous quality about it that is addictive to the ear and particularly illustrative of the swinging nature of this cd.
“Sevaan” is a ballad that allows Lamb to exhibit the melodicism inherent to his playing, while Kleinhaut here provides the harmonic cushioning that illuminates the beautiful and yearning nature of this piece. Lamb enchants with his versatility and sensitivity on this song. “Guitar Bar” presents more of Lamb’s appealing single note offerings before his passing of the baton to Kleinhaut’s bluesy meditations. This piece weaves elements of boogie woogie and ragtime into its essentially blues connotation. Similarly, “Up River” continues with Kleinhaut showcasing his jazz story-telling facility over Lamb’s underlying harmonic support. The abundance of Kleinhaut’s gift is so apparent here that one has to query why there aren’t more recordings by him out there.
“Twilight Garden” itself opens with a repeating figure that to my sensibility asks a musical question, the answer to which begins as an undertone but builds to a point where the question becomes a response to it. This interaction continues alternatively to ebb and generate steam until a resonant impasse is achieved as its resolution. A truly beautiful piece! “Tybee at Dawn is equally beautiful, however, its allure derives more from its tranquil and poignant lyricism.
The cd concludes with “Ghost Tour”, a deliberately paced tune that as its name suggests has a kind of haunting quality about it. While its title and opening statements may perhaps suggest the scary mysteries of Savannah that remain hidden to its less than intrepid visitors, the piece actually stays impressionistic and leaves you hungering for more of this duo’s musical insights about the City and, indeed, just for more of their playing.
Jones Street is a great cd that deserves to join company with the pantheon of guitar pairings listed above. While Kleinhaut and Lamb may not be as well known, their virtuosic, tone-poem to the city where their serendipitous excursion was memorialized is one that will stand the test of time.
Albert Brooks is an Albany area attorney and photographer, whose photographs have been featured in various publications both nationally and internationally. In addition to the foregoing, Brooks takes an occasional foray into concert and cd reviewing.