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Past Tense

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Album Review

Apart from an intriguing arrangement of Kurt Weill's hauntingly lovely "My Ship," guitarist Jay Azzolina's first album as a leader in eleven years is devoted entirely to original compositions. What may come as a real surprise to those familiar with his earlier work is the straight-ahead nature of the compositions and of his quintet's playing style. Gone are the rockish tone and slick fusioneering of his previous solo work and his two albums with Spyro Gyra. Instead, Azzolina leads a quintet (guitar, tenor sax and piano trio) through a set that includes the spiky, bluesy strut of "Inside Pie Eyes," the minimalist "Black Waltz," and a difficult and highly original treatment of the "I Got Rhythm" chord changes entitled "Rhythms Change." Azzolina's tone is self-consciously traditional, warm and round with the occasional edge of John Scofield-style vinegar. His supporting group couldn't be more empathetic — John Pattitucci spends most of his time on string bass (though it sounds like he's playing a fretless electric on "Marvelous Marvin") and drummer Adam Nussbaum keeps things well grounded while still creating lots of rhythmic interest. Best of all is tenor player Chris Potter, who spars with Azzolina throughout the album and keeps him on his toes. Highly recommended.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '00s

Jay Azzolina established himself as a reputable jazz guitarist after joining well-known fusion supergroup Spyro Gyro in 1989, around the same time he released his debut solo album, Never Too Late. Previous to this, Azzolina worked as a sideman, playing alongside such artists as Jeff Beal. His sidework was impressive, and he was beginning to make a name for himself within the jazz industry, but, more than anything, his affiliation with Spyro Gyro established him as a jazz guitar extraordinaire. He...
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Past Tense, Jay Azzolina
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