(Blue Canoe) Years of being assaulted by lite-elevator noodling and cloying coffeeshop ephemera have, unfortunately, turned many listeners against jazz guitar. But a small crop of young players—Julian Lage and Jonathan Kreisberg, among others—have reclaimed the form, reminding us that there are still magic and beauty in those six strings. With Songs From Oak Avenue, his second LP for the Blue Canoe label, Athens/Atlanta-based composer Trey Wright (formerly of the Athens-based prog-jazz band Squat) solidifies his place on that exclusive list.
The record is full of sweet surprises. Wright unplugs and impresses on “Sitting Still,” a gorgeous, acoustic track that aligns somewhat with the work of Daniel Bachman and other Primitivist devotees. “Joni,” dedicated to Joni Mitchell (albeit written and recorded before her recent health problems), echoes the famed songwriter’s sense of melody and space. Guest saxophonist Mace Hubbard cuts loose on the boppy “Chance of Snow.”
Wright is never as brash as modern guitar masters like Bill Frisell or Marc Ribot, preferring to remain in the pocket more often than not. It suits him, as does the understated work of drummer Marlon Patton and bassist Marc Miller. On “The Way Forward,” the bandleader sits back and lets his rhythm section take center stage, drifting just out of frame, his presence felt, if not heard.