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Album Review

French-born modern jazz guitarist Misja Fitzgerald Michel doesn't work in the all-skronk mode many automatically think of when considering contemporary European guitarists like Derek Bailey or Nels Cline. Indeed, his playing on tracks like the original ballad "Another World" recalls Wes Montgomery's fluid grace, and his closing version of John Coltrane's "Central Park West" has the sophisticated late-night blues feel of a classic Joe Pass side. But overall, Michel is a resolutely modern player unafraid to cross into free jazz territory on his exploratory solos. Interestingly, however, Michel's takes on '60s free jazz classics tend to rework the songs in entirely different directions, so that Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" features speedy flamenco-influenced runs and Coltrane's "Countdown" is reinterpreted as a tricky solo acoustic showcase. Occasionally joined by saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, Michel's trio favors crisp, unobtrusive showcases for the leader's impressive chops, but Encounter is more than a series of showboating solos. A varied and endlessly listenable modern jazz album, Encounter reveals Misja Fitzgerald Michel as a subtle and nuanced player with a knack for simpatico arrangements.

Encounter, Misja Fitzgerald Michel
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