The guitarist, Shawn Purcell proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the sound of surprise can also be heard within the (invisible) confines of old-fashioned, no-nonsense swing. Of course, there’s nothing “old-fashioned” about this music; it simply moves with the kind of breathtaking momentum that good, fine quality music in the Jazz improvised modalities does. In making the kind of recording that Symmetricity is, Mr Purcell is also informing us that wholly new ideas do not need to be outlandish, nor do they need to push the boundaries of melodicism to be contemporary because there is pre-eminent merit in – well – good, old-fashioned swing.
What is even more interesting – and welcome – is that all of this music (barring “Here’s That Rainy Day”) has been created by the guitarist himself. Naturally he pays homage to past masters of the electric instrument from Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, to Grant Green and George Benson, and John McLaughlin, John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny and others, but he does so without a shadow of shamefaced idolatry and fawning. His is a mature understanding of the history of this music and where he fits in it. His work here is well integrated – both into the classic trio and quartet, as well as organ trios and quartets. His approach to playing is well-formed and mature, yet his style remains deceptive, his often limpid (and sometimes raspy and twangy too) and his euphonious tone artfully leavens his nonetheless oblique and unpredictable melodic thinking.
The added support of highly sympathetic musicians – tenor saxophonist, Luis Hernández, pianist and organist Todd Solomon, bassist Regan Brough and drummer Stockton Helbing with whom he shares (among other things) a marvelous take on “Giant Steps” in the depth-defying improvisations on “Trane-ing Wheels”; and also, most poignantly-speaking vocalist Darden Purcell with whose wordless vocalastics he shares one of the most breathtaking melody on “Norm’s View”. All of this empathy makes this set a must-have because the music not only crackles with originality but is also masterfully produced and recorded for warmth, detail and delineation – all of which is so important when the guitar butts heads with the human voice or the piano and organ; and when the organ does likewise with the contrabass, or the latter goes down and dirty with the bass drum.
Track list: 1: Swirl; 2: Steady Comin’ at Ya; 3: Red Velvet Cake; 4: A Bela (For Darden); 5: Symmetricity in the Linear Evolution; 6: You, and You Alone; 7: Missed It by an Inch; 8: Here’s That Rainy Day; 9: ‘Trane-ing Wheels; 10: Norm’s View
Personnel – Shawn Purcell: guitar; Darden Purcell: voice (4, 10); Luis Hernández: tenor saxophone (1, 4, 10); Todd Solomon: piano, Hammond C3 organ (7) and Fender Rhodes (10); Regan Brough: contrabass; Stockton Helbing: drums, cymbals, Flexatone and tambourine (7)
Released – 2019
Label – Armored Records
Runtime – 1:08:47