Part of a musical family, guitarist Jaiman Crunk grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, spent years living in Europe, and is now based in Seattle. Encounters is his recording debut and it is a particularly impressive effort for Crunk, both as a guitarist and as a composer.
The personnel and instrumentation change from song-to-song on Encounters. But although many all-stars are scattered throughout the eight selections, the program has a strong unity, holding together as if it were a suite. Crunk?s music is adventurous, moody, quite modern, and unpredictable although ultimately logical. Repeated listenings reveal additional layers to the performances.
Encounters begins with ?Spuren,? one of four selections that include some of the member of the Seattle Symphony. The dense textures are a bit forbidding upon first listen but give way to some excellent piano playing by Bill Anschell. Bassist Ron Carter is an important part of the ensembles on this piece. ?We?ve Come This Far? has the solos of the leader and tenor-saxophonist Ernie Watts being a logical outgrowth of the arrangement, and vice versa.
?Let Me Slip Into Your Dreams Tonight,? has haunting vocals by Take 6, some excellent guitar playing, and backup work by bassist Brian Bromberg. The performance ends abruptly, as if it were the end of a dream. On ?Just Questions,? the interplay between Andy Narell?s steel drums, Crunk?s guitar and bassist Tony Grey is passionate and exciting.
The menacing strut ?Beneath A Leaf? has an intense solo by trumpeter Wallace Roney. The writing on ?She Stepped Away? is worthy of Wayne Shorter. That selection has a cooking trumpet solo by Randy Brecker. A dreamy guitar-piano duet by Crunk and Anschell precedes the brief closing piece, ?Her Kiss,? which has tenor-saxophonist Seamus Blake in the melodic lead.
The music on Encounters, which has each piece setting the stage for the next one, deserves a close listen, Even at this relatively early stage, Jaiman Crunk is an original writer and a guitarist with a sound of his own. Recommended.
, author of ten books including Trumpet Kings, The Jazz Singers, Jazz On Film and Jazz On Record 1917-76