Guitarist John Stowell went straight to the source when choosing a setting for his latest solo release - the home of Portland, Ore.-based luthier Mike Doolin. Using a pair of Doolin guitars - a nylon acoustic-electric and an electric tuned a major-third lower - Stowell recorded "Solitary Tales" live in front of a small, appreciative audience.
Concert recordings don't get more intimate than this, and Stowell's thoughtful approach to pieces composed by Cole Porter, Bill Evans, Steve Swallow and Ornette Coleman - along with the appearance of several self-penned tunes that have ruminative quality, contribute to a series of subdued performances.
Subdued yet not without surprises. Though quietly unfurled, Stowell's thematic embellishments (or tangents) help produce fresh and distinctive interpretations, beginning with a recital of Porter's "Everything I Love" that makes nimble use of darting single-note lines and muted chordal punctuations. Evans' "Funny Man" and Swallow's sparkle under Stowell's fingers before taking on a soulful glow. By contrast, the inclusion of Coleman's "Blues Connotation" allows the guitarist a chance to explore low-register dynamics - and to introduce some blues counter-riffing - while displaying a more restive percussive attack.
Interspersed are six Stowell originals that yield similar rewards. Particularly enjoyable are the "Fun With Fruit," a rhythmically engaging interlude, and "Friendly Giant," a shrewdly animated feature. "Solitary Tales" concludes with a solitary tribute from one guitarist to another. Dedicated to the great Jimmy Wyble, Stowell's "Wybleing" caps the concerts on a warmly affectionate note.