Monday, July 1, 2013

Earl Klugh Handpicked HeadsUp 2013

A musical autobiography of emotional depth and artistic maturity...
Brent Black / @CriticalJazz

The first HeadsUp release for Earl Klugh is a musical legacy revisited and still being defined as a soulful and soul filled excursion into some favorites both past and present deliver as promised with any Earl Klugh recording.

With some recordings special guests are little more than an afterthought and are usually nothing more than some friends with free time on their hands...not here. Joined by two of the finest guitarists, Vince Gill and Bill Frisell add some special flavor to the artistic consistency that has the Grammy winning Klugh continuing on his musical journey at such an incredible level of proficiency. Another stellar highlight on HandPicked is the addition of ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro. Much in the same vein that Klugh redefined and brought acoustic jazz to the forefront of the musical consciousness of listeners starting in 1976. Shimabukuro has taken what can easily be considered the Rodney Dangerfield of musical instruments to dazzling new heights to have even the most hard core six string aficionado green with envy. These are specially selected tunes by Klugh both standards and revisited original works reharmed with flair and that special panache that puts this release in the more than memorable pile all most immediately.

Two amazing arrangements that stand out are the solo works of George Shearing's "Lullaby Of Birdland" and arguably the most iconic jazz standard to date in the Thelonious Monk tune "Round Midnight." Vince Gill joins Klugh for a most entertaining duet with the Grand Ol' Opry flavor of "All I Have To Do Is Dream" Klugh hooked up with Gill thanks to their mutual friendship with the late Chet Atkins whose subtle influence is unmistakable in the classic Earl Klugh sound. The nuances melancholy of "Blue Moon" shows off the versatility of Klugh when coupled with another prolific talent in that of Bill Frisell.

Are there any real surprises here? Surprises, no...But what is apparent is an artist that is comfortable with where he has been and where he is going and given the eclectic set list here the harmonic door is being left wide open for a myriad of possibilities.

After four decades, a Grammy win and 12 nominations this is arguably the finest Earl Klugh release to date. Never one to rest on his laurels and easily sidestepping the musical complacency that has tripped up similar artists, HandPicked should easily make most "Best Of..." lists for 2013.

Tracks: In Six; Cast Your Fate To The Wind; Hotel California (duet with Jake Shimabukuro); More and More Amor; Round Midnight; But Beautiful; All I Have To Do Is Dream (duet with Vince Gill); Going Out Of My Head; If I Fell; Where The Wind Takes Me; Morning Rain; Love Is A Many Spendored Thing; This Time.