Friday, January 17, 2014

Scott Jeppesen's "El Guapo" - DownBeat

Scott Jeppesen
El Guapo
Creative Bottle Music

*** 1/2

Who is El Guapo? Is it saxophonist Scott Jeppesen? Is it one of the five other LA-affiliated musicians on this album? Whoever he is, based on the tune named after him, he sounds vibrant, light on his feet and guitarist Larry Koonse is definitely a good friend of his. But it can be misleading to trust someone who answers to such a name.

Is this music handsome? Yes. The band is quite polished, sometimes too polished and occasionally the music drifts into a synthetic smoothness that is not always welcome. The album stays grounded thanks to Jeppesen's earnest playing and creative writing but the occasional jolting blemish would be nice. 

Jeppesen's version of Richie Beirach's "Elm" is eerily similar to the original 1979 recording. The two tracks can be played simultaneously and line up almost perfectly. It would've been a more interesting statement if Jeppesen had played over the original instead of enlisting his band to recreate it. Nonetheless, he gently flutters over Koonse's nimble support with dreamy results. Producer John Daversa steps out with his trumpet on two tracks including Jeppesen's "Great Odin's Raven" where he trails the saxophonist a few steps on the prodding melody before Jeppesen, pianist Josh Nelson and Daversa make driving statements of their own.

The album is mostly comprised of Jeppesen's compositions. “I Tend To Agree” pits Nelson’s keyboards against Schnelle’s bumping solo while Jeppesen switches to soprano saxophone for "No Drama," a seductive platform for bassist Dave Robaire's swaying solo.

Jeppesen closes with a confident display of chops. With just Robaire and Schnelle, the saxophonist takes on the muscular Sonny Rollins playbook, honking through Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In" with a swinging playfulness. An album of that trio would be a lot fun but maybe that's a project for El Divertido. 

Scott Jeppesen @ DownBeat

No comments: