Nov 18, 2011

Nat Janoff, a Guitarist Who Deserves Wider Recognition - and a Major Label

Listening to guitarist Nat Janoff 's latest album reminded me of what makes the indie jazz scene alternately exhilarating and depressing. The exhilaration comes in discovering absolutely wonderful music that few people have heard. The depression comes from the realization that true talent, at least in this genre, too often languishes in obscurity.

Janoff has a half-dozen albums to his name. His latest, "Come Together Move Apart," is a strong effort in every respect. Janoff is a technically agile yet sensitive musician whose playing shows shades of John McLaughlin and Wes Montgomery. He's also a gifted composer whose tunes are innovative in the best sense of the word, meaning they carry the stamp of something new yet remain accessible. And he's backed by a band that gives as good as it gets (John Escreet on piano, Francois Moutin on bass and Chris Carroll on drums).

Two tracks on the CD illustrate Janoff's multi-layered prowess. "Shorter Times" opens with a bouncy drum solo by Carroll that segues into a nice bit of speedy post-bop jazz. Janoff plays the head, an elliptical piece that at a slower tempo would sound West-Coast cool, then gets out of the way as Escreet launches into a dizzying bit of solo work that does Art Tatum proud. But then it's the leader's turn, and Janoff, who as a young turk worshipped at the altar of Eddie Van Halen, shreds his way through a fleet-fingered solo that quite simply blazes. Fast doesn't begin to describe it. The next track is the polar opposite: "For Now" is quieter, muted even, and though it's at a slower tempo Janoff still infuses his solo with fretwork that is technically impressive yet appropriate to the tune's more restrained mood.

Both tunes are of a piece with the excellent work on the rest of "Come Together Move Apart," which is as fine an example of contemporary jazz guitar as I've heard. Yet as good as it is, the CD is not on a label like Blue Note or Concord but a self-recorded effort. That's not to diminish the work in any way; the sound is crystal clear and the cover art quite appealing. It's just that, if anyone is deserving of major label support, it's the likes of Janoff. Here's hoping this latest work brings him the acclaim he deserves.

-Tony Rogers

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