Sunday, July 14, 2013

Peter Leitch California Concert Jazz House 2013

An incredibly proficient guitarist with a warm all most organic lyrical flow and the precision of a skilled surgeon.
Brent Black / @CriticalJazz

Never heard of Peter Leitch? Not to worry, you are not alone. Hey, a critic can not hear everything...California Concert from Jazz House may be the surprise guitar release for 2013. Leitch plays with a lyrical sense of purpose combining a deft touch with a harmonic progression that may make him one of the finest "unknown" guitarists today. Re-issues and bad masters are the Achilles heel for jazz aficionados everywhere and sadly this release is no exception.

This recording combined the formidable skills of Leitch with bassist David Williams, pianist John Hicks and jazz icon Billy Higgins. Recorded live on May 1st 1999 by a rabid fan, Leitch knew he had something special so master engineer  Allan Tucker faced the daunting task of cleaning  up the audio to make California Concert a viable recording for public consumption. Tucker succeeded in his attempt with this live performance at California State University, Fresno turning out to be one of the most engaging live modern jazz guitar recordings perhaps over the last decade. 

The Leitch wheelhouse is built firmly on tradition with Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo" and a piano / guitar medley of Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" and "Warm Valley." This particular recording reaches the "gem" status with no tune under nine minutes allowing this ensemble to stretch out and go on a harmonic exploration and with dramatic results. Swing hard or go home could be a fitting alternate title for this incredibly entertaining work. In terms of criticism there is not much here to grind on. While the liner notes are a bit on the simplistic side and don't fully capture the magnitude of the recording, the music more than speaks for itself. 

4 Very Solid Stars. 

Tracks: Relaxin' at Camarillo; Isfahan; Book's Bossa; After The Morning; In A Sentimental Mood / Warm Valley; A Blues For Ivan Symonds / Theme.

Personnel: Peter Leitch: guitar; David Williams: bass; John Hicks: piano; Billy Higgins: drums.