Jazz music, news and views

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mike Moreno

I'm glad to see guitarist Mike Moreno is finally getting some presence on YouTube. He's been around too long -- and is too good -- to have so little "new media" attention. His graceful technique and enchanting, crystalline tone are truly tasteful, and his solos are always well structured. Perhaps because of his gorgeous, atmospheric sound, critics and fans tend to mention his name somewhere near Kurt Rosenwinkel's, but Moreno's melodic language is his own. And, though a bit similar, even his tone is distinguishable from Rosenwinkel's –- more robust and liquid. I can listen to his playing all day (and I do, sometimes). He's been my favorite guitarist for a while now.

I was lucky enough to see him live once in a rare LA appearance with saxophonist John Ellis last year. In addition to his typically clean, lyrical fretwork, he tackled one solo with a slide and volume pedal, which isn't an easy task. Many guitarists sound totally different (often not as good) with a slide, treating it as a novelty, but Moreno played with ease in his own irrepressible voice. And I haven't seen him play acoustic guitar, but check out the samples from his albums on HisSpace (especially around 5:24 from "Sample 1" of Between the Lines).

This clip is great not only because of Moreno's playing (he really pulls out the stops for this one), but also for drummer Tommy Crane's chops and driving groove:

In his article "The Gig" from the July/August 2007 issue of JazzTimes, the meticulous Nate Chinen penned a spot-on assessment of why Moreno is so astounding. NYers are lucky enough to get him for most of the year, though I'll have to wait until October for his next LA appearance. For those who want more than words, here's a few of my favorite sideman tracks his (available temporarily). His contributions elevate any ensemble's performance.

Albums as a leader:
Between the Lines (World Culture)
Third Wish (Criss Cross)

Some of my favorite albums with Moreno as a sideman:
John Ellis: By a Thread (Hyena)
Frank LoCrasto: When You're There (Maxjazz)
Jeremy Pelt: Identity (Maxjazz)
Bob Reynolds: Can't Wait for Perfect (Fresh Sound)
Kendrick Scott: The Source (World Culture)
Yosvany Terry: Metamorphosis (EWE)
Sam Yahel/Mike Moreno/Ari Hoenig/Seamus Blake: Jazz Side of the Moon (Chesky)
eXTReMe Tracker