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Direct Call - Andy Brown: CD Review

Direct Call - Andy Brown

Andy Brown – Guitar

Jeremy Kahn – Piano

Joe Policastro – Bass

Phil Gratteau – Drums

Chicago guitarist Andy Brown has mastered the art of subtlety and elegance. His suave, clean, deceptively simple style is easily recognizable, as is his deeply expressive and vibrant sound. On his fifth release, Direct Call, Brown convenes his regular working band for a varied program of standards that crackle with spontaneity and energy.

The boppish “Catch Me,” penned by guitarist Joe Pass, showcases Brown’s virtuosity as his lithe, fast-paced lines unfurl with fiery agility. Brown engages pianist Jeremy Kahn in a witty dialogue and the two exchange crisp bars and clever phrases. Drummer Phil Gratteau drives the tune with his restless gallop, culminating into a thrilling, thunderous solo.

Kahn crafts a spicy monologue on saxophonist Hank Mobley’s blues-drenched “Funk in Deep Freeze.” Brown takes center stage for a performance filled with intriguing ideas, blistering notes and a simmering tone. During his turn in the spotlight, bassist Joe Policastro embellishes the melody with his supple pizzicato and buoyant reverberations.

There are mellower moments on the album that highlight the close camaraderie among the quartet members. Trombonist Jimmy Guinn’s romantic song “Relaxing” flows seamlessly and with grace from one group member to the next as a genial, poetic conversation. Over Gratteau’s soft brushes and sparkling cymbals, Policastro demonstrates his limber lyricism with a dark and somewhat mystical improvisation. Brown answers with a yearning, emotive soliloquy filled with intricate flourishes and pastel hues. Kahn continues Brown’s thread of thought and expands on it with eloquence and an understated melancholy tinged with joy.

With each release Brown continues to exhibit his versatility and high-caliber musicianship. Over his recording career, he has paired up with a vocalist, played solo and “dueled” with another guitarist and has led small ensembles. Regardless of the setting, Brown’s unique and mature instrumental voice uniformly charms and captivates, leaving an indelible mark on all these sessions.

—Hrayr Attarian

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