Brooklyn born and raised guitarist / composer Tom Guarna is a musician's musician, a stellar talent who can seemingly play anything, and play it brilliantly. His fluid lines, creative chord-voicings, captivating tone, and profound solos have made him a first-call musician for the likes of Manuel Valera and New Cuban Express (in the band nominated for a 2013 Grammy Award), Blood Sweat and Tears, Wallace Roney, Branford Marsalis, Randy Brecker, Lenny White, the late Mulgrew Miller, Billy Hart, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Greg Hutchinson, John Benitez, Joe Locke, E.J. Strickland and many, many others.
And yet, his prolific sideman work is only half of the story. After five acclaimed recordings under his own name, Guarna recently experienced yet another deluge of inspiration, and the result is his highly anticipated new recording, Rush, to be released on February 25, 2014, on the intrepid, indy-label, Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records. Guarna explains, "Rush was inspired by the sudden burst of creativity that can sometimes overtake you, inspiring you to seize the moment and engage in the creative process. I am always composing and conceptualizing new music, but the recording of this album followed a particularly inspired time when it seemed that I couldn't write the music fast enough. So 'rush' really best describes the excitement and joy I experienced when working on the music for this project."
Rush features Danny Grissett on piano & Fender Rhodes; "I first played with Danny in bassist Richie Goods group. We did a European tour and also played some gigs in the states. I had been a fan of his playing prior to working with him. Danny has a beautiful touch that creates a beautiful tone. That combined with his great feel and harmonic sense made him the first person I thought of when I decided to record. Joel Frahm on soprano & tenor saxophones; Joel recorded on my third Steeplechase recording titled Wingspan. He has a great sound and beautiful harmonic concept. Orlando Le Fleming on bass; I first met Orlando while I was at The New School. We played together in various groups over the years, and I always loved his sound and feel. And, Johnathan Blake on drums; Johnathan and I first played together in George Colligan's group. I love the way Johnathan can shape a song. His use of colors and how loose his feel can be while still achieving accuracy.
Tom Guarna: Rush (Feb 2014)
Highlights on Rush include the title track, which opens with Guarna instantly building up anticipation with a propulsive riff before the band dives in with the soaring melody. This tune is about experiencing a burst of creativity and the "rush" to seize the moment before it passes. Up next is the driving rhythm and serpentine melody of "Beringia", named after the land bridge that once connected Siberia to Alaska. It is believed that this bridge may have allowed ancient people to migrate to America. "The song is inspired by the feeling these travelers may have felt", said Guarna. "Dreamland", which finds the band taking Guarna's counterpoint melody and running with it, creating an emotive ballad, with a swinging section in three, evokes the feeling of being partially asleep but still somewhat awake at the same time. The song captures the peaceful feeling that can be experienced while in this state. "'Shambleau' is the name of a short story written by C.L. Moore in the 1930's. Shambleau is a medusa like creature that drains the life force of men. This song was written immediately after I finished this story", explained Guarna. "Elegy for Etan" is in memory of Etan Kalil Patz, who was six years old when he disappeared while walking to catch his school bus two blocks from his New York City home in 1979. "If you grew up in NYC around the time this happened, you saw his picture everywhere. He was the first person to have his photo on milk cartons, and there was an enormous search for him. Heartbreaking", Guarna reminisced. Guarna explains the tune "Movement and Repose", "While writing this song, those two words seemed to best describe the architecture of the composition. The song moves through many tonal centers before arriving at the middle section, which evokes a brief sense of rest. Then it quickly returns to that driving sense of urgency, hopefully creating a nice ebb and flow to the song." "Forgiveness", is a burning tune (Guarna's solo here is an album highlight) that was inspired by the process of forgiving that leads you through a series of emotions, enabling one to eventually let go of any hurt and negative energy. "This song was written while going through this process", said the guitarist. The band truly shines, and shows how big their ears are, on the album's closer, "High Plains" written by Guarna with the state of Montana in mind. He explains, "having spent some time hiking there, the beauty of the varying landscapes was quite overwhelming to me. It reminds me of the importance to preserve nature."
"Although the music was not written for anyone specific, they all played the music as if I had written it with them in mind, they definitely took ownership of the music as musicians of this caliber always do! I knew that if I had all of these guys together, that we would create a really nice group sound. I am very pleased with the result, to say the least!", said Guarna.