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Spring Forward

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Album Review

Some artists will insist that they have a broad, diverse range of influences when in fact, their range of influences is quite limited. That doesn't necessarily mean that their work isn't worthwhile — only that they aren't as adventurous and far-reaching as they would like to think they are. But when Bill Banfield points out that his range of influences is far-reaching, he speaks the truth; one hears a strong George Benson/Wes Montgomery influence on Spring Forward, and yet, Banfield's guitar playing also brings to mind players like John Scofield and Bill Frisell. This is a hard bop/post-bop album that occasionally moves into mildly avant-garde territory; Spring Forward is not easy to pin down stylistically, although everything on this 2009 release is jazz-oriented in some respect. Banfield gets into an appealing post-bop groove on "Free Me" (a Banfield original) and John Coltrane's "Equinox" and puts his hard bop talents to work on Montgomery's "The Thumb," but things became more left-of-center on "Free Us" — which is easily the disc's most avant-garde offering and is totally unrelated to the abovementioned "Free Me." Banfield's "Free Us" isn't an exercise in atonal chaos, and it isn't nearly as extreme as, say, the scorching free jazz that Coltrane offered during the last few years of his life. Nonetheless, the tune demonstrates that Banfield has no problem embracing the abstract and the cerebral when he is in the mood for inside/outside playing. His eclecticism never sounds forced or unnatural; he comes across as an improviser who genuinely appreciates a variety of jazz, and that outlook yields likable results on Spring Forward.

Spring Forward, Bill Banfield Band
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