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Album Review

Ximo Tebar's guitar style is not typical in the contemporary electric jazz tradition of John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, or John Scofield in that it displays little distinction in and of its own voicings. What Tebar does own is a sense of teamwork and a greater theory of the melodic whole with his fellow bandmembers. Steps, his seventh album, is a very appropriate title for this recording in three discernible ways. There's a progression of size in these combos, from quartet, quintet, sextet, septet, and octet. Compositions from post-bop and the jazz fusion era are used, as well as modern contemporary originals. Though somewhat based in acoustic music, the electric Fender Rhodes piano played by Orrin Evans is very present throughout, while add-ons include a horn section, vocals, and a cello. Though Tebar's guitar is at the focal point, he is not the main voice, but instead represents a straight shooting laser beam of conceptual originality that precludes personal individuality. What is unique is the clever way he interprets any given composition. Alex Blake (longstanding member of Randy Weston's bands) and Boris Koslov (the Mingus Big Band stalwart) switch their regular roles, with Blake on acoustic upright and Koslov on the electric bass guitar, while rock-solid drummer Donald Edwards plays his ever consistent role as a rhythmic taskmaster. Tebar "covers" five standards, all of them quite differently, with new ideas surrounding the original themes. The theme from "Pink Panther" for instance incorporates a neat and clean modern approach merged with heavy contemporary funk without dismissing the slinky mood of the song. Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" is adapted into a light, breezy samba, Herbie Hancock's fusion classic "Actual Proof" is done very faithfully to the original in short form, and John Coltrane's "26-2" is deviated beyond initial recognition, with Blake's bass, Stefan Braun's cello, wordless vocals from Ester Andujar, a funky tick-tock beat, and Tebar's sneaky quick guitar lines. "Steps" is a supercharged extrapolation of Coltrane's "Giant Steps" with harmonies from "Milestones" also tossed in, tricky and synapse fast. Clearly a tribute to Wes Montgomery, "Four on Six for Wes" has the guitarist exploiting seamless rhythm changes via tiny notes and hip, literate chords borrowed from the master with scatting included, while the Edwards penned "Essential Passion" is very much like "Actual Proof" in design, but more lithe, animated, and not over the top heavy. This is a quite credible effort for Tebar and his groups, not as uneven as the lineups might suggest, sporting the diversity of a restless mind that refuses to stew in only one jazz genre, and does not take his own presence in a group setting so deadly serious. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi

Top Albums and Songs by Ximo Tebar & Ivam Jazz Ensemble

Steps, Ximo Tebar & Ivam Jazz Ensemble
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  • £6.32
  • Genres: Jazz, Music
  • Released: 21 April 2009

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