The local jazz scene lost a great asset when Mark Kleinhaut moved away a few years ago. Not only was he a talented jazz guitarist, he brought name artists such as Bobby Watson and Tiger Okoshi in for gigs and to make recordings on his Invisible Music label.
Kleinhaut and spouse, Erika Aberg, now live in New York but have maintained contact with some of their local cohorts, and that keeping up of ties has brought us “Jones Street,” a sparkling new disc of duets.
Kleinhaut reunited with Brunswick-based guitarist and old pal Neil Lamb while both were on vacation in Georgia in 2010. After Lamb set up some recording equipment, the two plugged in and jammed for hours.
There was magic in the Savannah air, and although the ever-exacting Kleinhaut was initially resistant to the idea of putting together a CD from their improvisations, Lamb made a convincing case after he “clean(ed) things up” on the recordings and showed his buddy how good they really were.
A follow-up recording session in 2011 and some mixing and mastering by Aberg were all it took to fully populate “Jones Street.”
The jazz connections called forth by the disc are many, but it’s also possible to hear echoes of some of the better jam bands in the diffusion of musical fragments that takes us through the “Twilight Garden.” (Is that a “Dark Star” on the horizon?)
“Tybee at Dawn” references the environs of the Savannah area in both an impressionistic sense and as a ground for flights of expression from the players. There’s a mysterious tinge to many of the best pieces. “Ghost Tour,” which closes the disc, for example, sets the two guitarists from up north deep into very spooky Southern territory.
In contrast, “Street Fair” combines a folk-ish sound with some counterpoint to provide a vibrant but also relaxing sense of place. “Up River” is pure jazz, with the fleet Kleinhaut finding several interesting ways to take advantage of the rhythmic current pouring out of Lamb’s bass lines.
The guitarists get down a little on “Guitar Bar,” which features both musicians trafficking in bluesy phrasing over gritty rhythms.
It’s not hard to determine who’s playing what at different points on the 10 originals on this disc. Channels are specified, and Lamb’s instrument features an extra low-end string. But the disc’s biggest draw is the way the musicians combine to create a duo identity.
Sometimes, crazy/good things happen when people meet on vacation.
Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.