John McLean: Easy Go
This is the long-awaited first opus as a leader by a superb guitar player, John McLean. As a sideman, John McLean has proven his versatility, oblique and hard with saxophonist Arthur Blythe, explosive with drummer Damon Short or moody with Patricia Barber. For this first offering, John McLean tries to appeal to a broad audience without sacrificing his integrity. His originals are memorable songs that are far more complex than they seem. They alternate blazing compositions in the Hammond B-3/guitar tradition and melancholy and reflective tunes. Thoughtful renditions of Jaco Pastorius' "Three Views of a Secret" and Miles Davis' "Blue In Green" as well as a tonic version of Woody Shaw's "Blues for Wood" wrap up the program.
John McLean claims Wes Montgomery as a major influence, but it is hard to tell listening to "Easy Go". It certainly shows that the guitarist has been able to outgrow his model to become a singular player, which is the sign of a great talent. The guitarist's crystal-clear lines are both poetic and expansive.
John McLean also succeeds in surrounding himself with excellent and compatible musicians, which is the trait of an adept bandleader. Saxophonist Jim Gailloretto is making his presence more felt on the Chicago scene these days and it is a real pleasure to hear him stretch out on the soprano on the dark "Desperate Measures", with a lyricism reminiscent of Charlie Mariano.
Karl Montzka displays many facets of his talent on the Hammond B-3 (he also plays the piano on two tracks). Because of Larry Kohut's presence on bass providing excellent timing, he does not have to focus on the beat and can effectively add a lot of color. Special guest Adam Nussbaum rounds out the quintet on drums. His past experience with other guitarists such as John Scofield or John Abercrombie is a major asset whether he drives the band or challenges the soloists.
Kudos to Premonition for allowing John McLean to make his art known to the outside world.-AD
Available on Premonition Records, www.premonitionandmusic.com