With his latest record Continuation
, multi-talented guitarist Peter Lerner continues to make a case for himself as Chicago's very own jazz authority. The nine-track, nearly 80-minute record showcases his creative versatility as a composer, arranger, and performer. Lerner manages to season each track with a different flavor--from Latin to blues to funk--without compromising the record's identity or natural flow. He shines not only when left to elaborate on the guitar, but also in his ability to bring together an expert cast of as many as eight musicians, including renowned Chicago pianist and Lerner's own mentor, Williw Pickens. Characterized by irrefutable skill, musical generosity, and apparent effortlesness, the group dynamic is Continuation
and Peter Lerner's greatest success.
The record opens with the wildly fun and unpredictable "Willie n Me," a tribute to Pickens. Pickens' monotonous piano keeps the track grounded underneath Lerner's vigorous guitar and Charles "Rick" Heath's frenetic drums until the piano man himself launches into a lively solo. The track immediately confirms Lerner's strength as a composer and an arranger, and the ensemble's success as a unit. Separately, each instrumental voice is a converation you can't follow. Together, they tell a story of refined chaos and musical expertise.
The aptly titled "Southside Strut" honors Chicago's history as both a jazz and blues empire. Lerner delivers deep blue riffs while Pickens takes us back to a night at the Grand Terrace Cafe. In another jazz-fusion track, "Funkdat," Lerner's muted staccato pulse gives way into individual grooves from everyone from Marlene Rosenberg on the to Geof Bradfield on the sax. Meanwhle, Latin influences can be heard on both "Amazon," a danceable stylistic mash-up, and "La Mesha," a ballad of lonely guitar musings.
"When Sunny Get's Blue" is a graceful conclusion to the record. The rest of the cast fades away, and we are left to listen in on an intimate conversation between string and key--between Lerner and Pickens themselves. While the tone is melancholy, as the title of the track suggests, it feels more like a "thank you for coming," a genuine exchange between two sophisticated musicians who appreciate each other's company.
Peter Lerner is a fine guitarist and an even better bandleader. With Continuation
, he has combines seasoned artistry with smart choices to produce great chemistry and a record that is ultimately greater than the sum of its parts.