Redwood Road 2015
From Motor City to the City of Angels, guitar elegance comes full circle.
Thom Douvan’s sartorial style on the cover of his third outing hints at the player’s impeccable taste, and the tracks underneath this cover testify to that. Done with the sweet grit the guitarist sprinkled over 2014’s “Brother Brother,” Douvan’s tribute to THE FUNK BROTHERS who he served an apprenticeship with, now Thom’s tone of choice is tight yet mellifluous, vocal cuts adding to the honeyed delivery without eating away at its arresting adventurousness. So while “Ethersphere” offers a vibrant, though rather sparse, fluidity and acoustically-tinctured charm, before taking off, the journey into the unknown begins with “Sephardia,” from the second the leader’s strum cuts through Mitchel Forman’s piano which creates a playfully patinated, and prominently pulsing, backdrop to the six-string tangible twang and a piccolo pattern.
It may feel comfortably familiar, the sensation Douvan stresses in the breezy “Deja Vu All Over Again” and its multi-dimensional reprise “Again Again” displaying a full ensemble improvisation, but that’s because the artist taps into the listeners’ collective unconscious. That’s why there’s irony in “When Things Fall Apart,” a piece shot through with Trey Henry’s bass solo, and that’s why there’s a down-home grace to baroque folk of “Rhonda” dancing around the fiddle tune. Still, Thom’s delicate, cobweb-like take on Kenny Burrell’s “Then I Met You” – a part of jazz conscious, voiced by Lynne Fiddmont and fluttering as an instrumental bonus at the end – serves as a nice contrast to the transparent interplay in “Wes Coasting” which pays homage to Wes Montgomery.
And then there’s one more riveting song, the sax-oiled and fusion-shaped “Believe In You” with Rob McDonald at the microphone and Jimmy Earl on a punchy bass that, a little later, in another reprise, provides a foundation for an exquisite scat. All these recursions, and a tad of repetition, only underline the meaning of album’s title, but if Thom Douvan regularly returns to the hub before embarking on a new trek, that’s because there lies a melodious heart of his talent.