Jack Mazzenga — Acoustic a la Mode
((Not on label) no#, 2015, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2015-11-02
Frets are for wimps. Guitar? Banjo? Mandolin? We don’t need no stinkin’ frets! Guitarist Jack Mazzenga returns with Acoustic a la Mode, which treads somewhat different territory than Had to Say, his 2013 release. Aside from the bass guitar (fretless, of course), there are only acoustic instruments, the majority of them played by Mazzenga himself, though with a bit of help from Neil Haverstick (fretless banjo, oud), Jim Petti (bass), Michael Thompson (percussion), Mitch Goldman (trumpet), and Joe Brown (tenor sax, flute). The general style could be seen as progressive folk perhaps, with some touches of country swing, jazz, and just plain kick-butt pickin’. It’s to Mazzenga’s credit that most of the time, you wouldn’t even know the instruments are fretless – there are no gratuitous glissandos or other cheap effects, just solid playing, imaginative and entertaining. Some highlights are “Reelism,” which features a stunning acoustic guitar part that, if played on an electric, might well work in a technical metal band; “Pike’s Slough,” which is a solo mandolin piece that might make you reassess what a mandolin can do; and “Tongue and Groove,” which has a fun Middle-East-meets-surf vibe to it. Mazzenga’s playing can be seen as an American counterpart to British pioneers like John Renbourn and Bert Jansch, or Davey Graham before them. He’s expanding what instruments can be expected to do within an acoustic context, and hybridizing techniques and sounds from anywhere and everywhere. Don’t be scared off by thoughts of a bluegrass connection: this is fun music, played with a sense of wonder and excitement, and should be enjoyed for its artistic merit without such limitations.
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more