An idea of what guitarist Dan Heck's passion is can be determined from the title of his newest CD, Compositionality. It's a great title for an album in which all the highly varied tunes are composed by one man. The only problem with understanding Heck's enthusiasm is that it might give the potential listener the impression that his instrumental prowess may be a little under par. No such problem exists. Dan Heck's chops and improvisation are up to scratch, with technique and melodic ideas to spare.
Like some composers, Heck lets the listener in on the inspirations for certain tunes. "Stand Pat", who the sleeve notes say is inspired by Pat Metheny, finds Heck soaring over simple albeit gorgeous bass and drums, just as Metheny is wont to do of late.
Drummer Brian Blade gets a wonderful tribute in a barely controlled out and out joy of a cut called "Blade's Groove". Trumpeter Marriott cuts loose, as does pianist Shelton, with solos that fair burst with energy. Heck calms it down a little, then ramps the music up to drummer Martinez' commentary over the groove. High fives all around.
"Tommy's Teeth", dedicated to Dexter Gordon, gets humor out of simply capturing the style of a true master. Nobody copies his tricks like quoting other songs, and there is no saxophonist to copy Long Tall's sound. But the final result sounds so right! "Dan's Hit Tune" and "Ciao Jobs, I'm not Rolan" (still haven't figured the significance of that one) are said to be informed by the works of the late great Antonio Carlos Jobim, and who are we to quibble? Both pieces are beautiful, with Marriott sounding of flugelhorn. Shelton finds his way to the Fender Rhodes on the latter, which refreshes like a summer mist. So very nice.
"Blue Stone" seems to be inspired by Horace Silver, with its hard-bopping and on this blues middle section. Of course, one could always see the title as an anagram for "Blue Notes", and one listen will have you understand from whence they cometh.
The closing cut, "Naples", is a deceptively simple jazz waltz that has that pleasing and tantalizing effect of leaving the listener wanting more, an effect to which this listener confesses.
More, Dan Heck, more. Encore.