George Cotsirilos is a hidden treasure of jazz - one of those wonderful players that you know are out there somewhere working away without the wider recognition they deserve. This guitarist has paid his dues for almost thirty years now, and with this - his second CD - he shows that he has earned full membership to the club.
Past Present is a finely crafted presentation of original songs and standards, all of a consistently high quality. Cotsirilos' tone is warm and rich, and his playing is smoothly melodic. You will not find pointless pyrotechnics here, but when the tune calls for a cascade of notes he can unleash a Niagara Falls with the best of them.
Good Wood is a stylish up-tempo original that showcases Mr. Cotsirilos' wonderful tone, as well as a fine command of both single-line and chordal playing. Robb Fisher adds an equally fine bass solo, while Ron Marabuto lays down a great groove on the drums.
WIthout a Song flows effortlessly from Good Wood, an indication of the quality of George Cotsirilos' compositional prowess. In treating this standard we hear hints of Latin rhythms, the occasional flamenco flourish, octave sections giving way to chord melody, and always a steady flow of melodic invention that makes repeated listening a rewarding experience. Once again the bass is treated as a second solo instrument, and Robb Fisher displays a similar combination of inventive soloing with a strongly melody underpinning. The whole has a kind of understated virtuosity that slowly emerges as each part seems a perfect addition to a most interesting whole.
The Way You Look Tonight begins with a beautiful solo guitar intro that drops chords into finely woven lines until the drums signal the full trio to start in. This song features some extremely fine soloing by Mr. Cotsirilos as well as superb ensemble playing between guitar and bass, at times sounding like a single big instrument. The trio opens things up a bit here, and we start to get more varied moods that lift the album to a new level of excitement - certainly not what we might have expected from the exquisite opening, and yet oh so right! This one is packed full of interesting twists and turns that you have to hear to understand.
Franny's Jump is another original, this time a stylish mid-tempo tune with warmth and character that beg to be explored, and the trio does just that. Once again the ensemble playing is terrific, with almost telepathic swings in mood and timbre. This one really swings and gets the joint jumpin' but good!
The title song Past Present brings a very different sound to the trio with George Cotsirilos playing acoustic guitar on his own composition. The interplay between all three musicians is outstanding here, melodically, harmonically, texturally, and timbrally. The contrast of the subdued bass with the brightness of the guitar, and the corresponding high-end emphasis in the drums are just a couple of the magnificent touches in this great performance. The intelligence of George Cotsirilos as a player is evident in his handling of the acoustic guitar as the different instrument it is from the electric - yet another subtle touch that contributes to the excellence of the performance.
Rosie's Tune is another original that shows the range of Mr. Cotsirilos' songwriting. This happy tune motors along, carrying the trio - and the listener - on a merry trip through a rich landscape. A perfect example of how his different song ideas call forth very different though equally original improvisational flights.
Café 4 Cats, like its presumed namesake in Barcelona, has a distinctly Latin accent, but more as an added spice to an already tasty mixture. In case we were wondering if the trio could handle an original take on Latin styles, this one sets our minds at ease.
Bittersweet starts off with some fine playing in octaves between the guitar and bass while the drums keep things swinging. The tight coupling of bass and guitar continues on for a full minute before they break out into their own grooves, coming back to touch base from time to time. Yet another nice change of pace. And after Robb Fisher having bass solos in each song, Ron Marabuto finally gets a chance to step out and solo a bit himself.
What Kind of Fool Am I? is a fascinating departure, played by George Cotsirilos on solo nylon-string guitar. The effect is at once introspective and yet full of motion, or perhaps a bit of turbulence. At just over three minutes, this one seems to end too soon, emphasized by its hanging ending.
The trio ends things off with another original, Cual Problema? They are back at their best with a mid-tempo, swinging tune. The harmony propels this one along, helped by a strong groove in both bass and drums, and the same great ensemble playing that comes from players who listen and react to one another. All three take full advantage of their solo spots in this one, and as wonderful as those solos are it is their ensemble playing that is the highlight of this entire CD.
If you like expressive guitar playing with great solos and strong swing, this is a CD for you. George Cotsirilos can certainly hold the stage with the best of the jazz world, and he has assembled a trio that is top-notch. This CD will delight any jazz guitar enthusiast, as well as anyone who appreciates a fine ensemble fully on top of their game. After Past Present, we have a lot to look forward to from George Cotsirilos in the future.