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
Mark Kleinhaut (guitars)
John Stowell (guitars)
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Click here to learn more about Mark Kleinhaut
Click here to learn more about John Stowell
MARK KLEINHAUT & JOHN STOWELL Cross Country Lines
by Tom Pierce
I’ve been consistently impressed with Mark Kleinhaut’s guitar work since initially hearing him in August 2012, in the Sketches of Influence band of drummer Joe Barna, who’s introduced me to so many outstanding musicians. In all of the varied music situations since then, I’ve found his propulsive guitar attack very engaging, but not overstated. The most striking aspect for me is his warmly bright, crisp tone, which is so clear and resonant, as well as his tastefully, well-controlled approach in not over emphasizing his impressive technique, with regard to speed and range. These qualities are especially enjoyable on ballads & bossas, that he clearly has a wonderful affinity for.
I’ve long been a huge fan of jazz guitar, not only for its sheer beauty, but also its flexibility and adaptability in supporting, blending or leading, in all type bands and genres. This includes the more blues-oriented, hard-driving artists like Kenny Burrell, Grant Green & Wes Montgomery; and also the somewhat introspective and intimate-sounding (but still gripping) artists like Jim Hall, whose 1975 CTI classic, Concierto is one of my top 5 “Desert Island” favorites. Kleinhaut readily acknowledges Hall as a major influence; and that is very evident on this duo recording with highly-regarded veteran guitarist John Stowell.
The most meaningful characteristic I found of Cross Country Lines is the amazing way these two uniquely sensitive guitarists are consistently able to effectively intertwine their MULTIPLE melody and improvisational lines. It’s a fascinating contrapuntal/counterpoint approach that enhances, rather than interferes with each other. They clearly have so much empathy and anticipation, that this approach still does NOT limit their individual creativity; or result in a musical “hodge-podge”.
I marveled in my repeated listens how Kleinhaut and Stowell consistently honor the 3 basic elements of music (melody, harmony and rhythm), in a truly JAZZ framework of swing and improvisation – within this added dimension of counterpoint.
As Kleinhaut indicates in Bill Milkowski’s very well-informed liner notes, this approach to guitar duo playing is essentially akin to a quiet, intimate conversation. Although it could almost be considered CEREBRAL, I feel it’s certainly NOT boring. For me, this is partly due to the compelling INSISTENCY of the rhythmic drive and support of the bass line that one of them often plays. And the tempos are nuanced & carefully varied; while the ballads do NOT drag.
The well-thought out playlist includes 3 well-known bossas (all by Jobim: “Triste”; “Once I Loved”; and “Insensatez”); 3 jazz classics: Thelonious Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t”, John Coltrane’s “Equinox” & “Solar”, actually written by guitarist Chuck Wayne, as “Sonny”, although copyrighted by Miles Davis; and 6 Great American Songbook standards that are all long revered in jazz .
It’s interesting that Kleinhaut and Stowell generally chose NOT to explicitly state the songs’ particular melodies in their playing until near the end of the songs, to maximize their improvisational possibilities. It should also be noted that the songs are all in the 4 – 4 ½ minute range, due to their very purposeful immediacy, and no unnecessary repetition. I found this CD a fully realized, gracefully elegant recording that’s warmly compelling.
Tom Pierce has had a burning passion for Jazz for over 50 years, initiated and fueled by seeing live in New York City, starting in the early 1960's, virtually every major artist still performing. He's been very happily living in Guilderland since 2001, as an active retiree sharing his love of music by writing online reviews for a number of web sites, preparing DVD presentations to various groups, co-Hosting Radio programs showcasing his favorite artists and busily supporting A Place for Jazz in a variety of ways.