Paul Bollenback – Invocation – Elephant Dreams

by | Oct 14, 2008 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Paul Bollenback – Invocation – Elephant Dreams ED 4550, 56:38 ****1/2:

(Paul Bollenbeck – guitar; Ed Howard – bass; Victor Lewis – drums; with guests Randy Brecker – trumpet, 1, 2, 5, 6, & 9; Chris McNulty – voice, 2, 5, & 6)

On Invocation, his eighth session as leader (if you count the self-produced 1987 cassette, Night Falls), Bollenback hits one out of the park.  A guitar/bass/drums trio date augmented by trumpet and wordless vocals on about half of it, this session marks a substantial advance for Paul Bollenback.  He’s rounded up some of the finest players on the scene—Brecker and Lewis especially shine.  He’s written a handful of striking tunes and cannily chosen a few classics.  He establishes a mood somewhere between casually swinging and intensely burning.  And he wraps it all in lightly worn monster chops. 

The band quickly hits its stride with the opener, “Dancing Leaf,” featuring the tricky unison playing of Brecker and the leader.  The Latin jazz classic, “Alter Ego,” by the late, great and sorely missed jazz pianist James Williams and employing the vocal talents of Ms. McNulty, gets a respectful though surprisingly adventurous treatment.  It’s wistful and spritely all at once.  Bollenback’s arranging talents come to the fore on “How Deep Is the Ocean,” reconfigured till it’s scarcely recognizable yet still very compelling.  Bollenback displays his deeply romantic side on “Everything Must Change,” handling its lovely melody with care even as he deconstructs the bridge with a jaunty flourish before revisiting the head in a hopelessly faux-upbeat mood.

The heart of this disc, “Invocation Part I & II,” signals a new direction for Bollenback. These pieces’ mystical, spiritually charged, beguiling atmospherics create a mood approaching reverence before finally clarifying into a deeply bluesy meditation about a third of the way through “Part II”  highlighted by first Brecker then Bollenback’s weighty solo statements.

No less of a jazz guitar master than George Benson called Bollenback’s playing “bona-fide, unambiguous, up-front, and powerful,” virtues on abundant display on this thoroughly engaging disc.

Dancing Leaf
Alter Ego
How Deep Is the Ocean
Everything Must Change
Invocation, part 1
Invocation, part 2
After the Rain

– Jan P. Dennis

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