One of your summer listening highlights this year will likely be the new recording from Ken Navarro, The Grace of Summer Light. I’ve heard the majority of the now 18 recordings of the guitarist and he continues to impress. This latest release continues to demonstrate Navarro’s growth as a composer. In fact, I’ll have to remember to refer to him as composer/guitarist Ken Navarro, or even more accurately: storyteller Ken Navarro. The compositions obviously inspired the musicians, including Joel Rosenblatt on drums, Tom Kennedy on acoustic and electric bass, and Jay Rowe on keyboards. Find out for yourself: Ken is offering the entire recording, all 57 minutes, for you to listen to. It’s not background music that you can listen to while you work. This music demands your attention. And, as he did with his previous effort, The Meeting Place, he’s blogged about the making of the new album.
Ken Navarro has written and played some of the sweetest melodies I’ve heard in my years of listening to contemporary jazz. So what happens when he steps away from the “smooth jazz radio” sound? You still get sweet sounding guitar and memorable songs! The Meeting Place is the 17th, and latest, recording from the reliable guitarist. It’s hard not to feel the joy he puts into compositions like the peppy “My Beautiful Girls” and sitar-enhanced “Lucky.” All of the songs are originals written or co-written by Ken with the exception of a nice rendition of Pat Metheny’s “Lakes.” I smiled upon hearing “Just Like That” as it reminded me again that Navarro can really write a hook. There’s a lot of energy in that track but he really stokes the fire on “The Challenge.” It’s another uptempo track with solos from saxman Rob Holmes then Jay Rowe, building to a minute-long, fiery electric guitar outburst. To me, it’s a case of saving the best for last as it’s my favorite on the disc. That’s saying something when the entire recording is full of good songs and enthusiastic playing. The Meeting Place is out now on Navarro’s Positive Music label.
After hearing a dozen recordings by an artist, you tend to have an impression of a person based on their playing or compositions. With Navarro, though, you won’t have to guess. He keeps a regularly updated blog (several posts each month), a podcast series, and wrote a diary about the making of The Meeting Place. In his blog, he writes about his life from composing to touring to stories about his family (including a funny story about when his son didn’t listen to Ken about playing the bass). It’s a personal aspect that, as far as I know, no other contemporary jazz musician has dared before. For musicians, the details about the entire production of the new release are very informative. The diary has over a dozen entries that are complemented by eight podcasts. Non-musicians, like myself, will also find it revealing. The podcast on distribution gave me a solid education on what an independent musician needs to do to get their music out to the public. Thanks, Ken, for sharing.