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Anthony Pirog — Pocket Poem
(Cuneiform Rune 468, 2020, DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2021-11-21

Pocket Poem Cover art

For this set of 14 tunes, guitarist Anthony Pirog teams up with two well-known jazz players: drummer Ches Smith and bassist Michael Formanek. This is the same trio that produced Pirog’s outstanding Palo Colorado Dream back in 2014, and it’s possible this effort is even more adventurous in scope. In addition to their main instruments, all three contribute electric and/or electronic sounds—- and this is the first time I recall hearing Formanek on electric bass out of dozens of albums I’ve heard him on. Smith augments his drums with percussion and electronic noisemakers, resulting in some of the best playing I’ve ever heard combining acoustic and electronic percussion. At times you’ll be hard pressed to find the guitar in all of the craziness, but at other times the mood is serene and meditative, as on the opener, “Dog Daze,” which seems to consist mostly of multiple guitar parts looped and effected for the first minute and a half. Then suddenly there are dramatic power chords and bass and drums giving us a noisy processional. But that track is no more representative of Pocket Poem than any other, as there’s seemingly endless variety available to this trio. There are suburb pieces for finger-picked acoustic guitar, both alone and with embellishment ranging from subtle to more extreme. There are times when the music consists almost entirely of electronic sounds, with little hint of the sources. And throughout, there are beautiful melodies with creative harmonic backing. I’m almost hesitant to classify this as a guitar trio, as it’s an expansive studio creation with skillful augmentation. I also hesitate to call it jazz, since it effortlessly spans so many styles that it creates a genre all its own. Pirog continues to demonstrate what the guitar can mean and be in a modern world beyond boundaries.

Filed under: New releases, 2020 releases

Related artist(s): Anthony Pirog, Ches Smith / We All Break, Michael Formanek

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