like to be true to a song," says guitarist Jack Jezzro.
"At the same time, I try to do something fresh with a tune.
This record was a chance to introduce the way I play. My own sound
or style, that's the freshness."
If you think traditional
means stale and easy listening means simple-minded, you haven't
heard Jazz Elegance
by Jack Jezzro. This jazz guitar debut is fresh, indeed. Not only
does it put a modern twist on wonderful standards like Night
and Day, Dancing on the Ceiling and Prelude
to a Kiss, its originals blend perfectly with the classics
Jack updates so creatively.
Jazz Elegance is a Jezzro
production. Clean, lucid, and smooth, it throws the supple,
nylon-string guitar of Jack Jezzro, bassist Jim Ferguson and drummer
extraordinaire Jim White into high relief. These men clearly play
from the heart. The bonus is, they're of one mind.
"One of the things
I've developed-it's always been there naturally-is being my own
accompanist," Jezzro says of his special, finger-picking style.
"When I was a kid, I would listen to records and pick out tunes
and try to play all the parts. I'd want to do the vocal, the
background vocal and the piano part; any other catchy, melodic hook
that was in the song, I'd try to play that, too.
"I was sort of
developing this 'accompanimental' thing before I knew what it
To learn what "accompanimental"
means, check out Jack's brooding take on My
Funny Valentine, or drop in on his dreamy Round
Midnight. The accents always nail the emotion, the phrasing
is impeccable, the logic is straightforward but never formulaic. The
lines of Jazz Elegance are lean, but the sound is
Like key influences Joe
Pass and Jim Hall, Jezzro is a contrapuntal guitarist. "Joe
Pass, you just immediately know it's him," Jezzro says.
"Things were so easy for him. He always puts me in a good mood,
he's so melodic. And Jim Hall's soloing and improvising are so deep;
it seems he and Bill Evans played a lot together. Probably one of
the reasons I like him so much is I like Bill Evans."
Jazz is a natural
expression for this West Virginia native, who seems to have been
born musical. Jezzro grew up in the small town of Rivesville,
starting on piano and accordion when he was very young. "I
would go to the piano and start banging out tunes when I was four or
five," he recalls. "I took accordion lessons even before
In his teens, Jezzro
turned to guitar, teaching himself by listening to records by Chet
Atkins, one of his earliest influences; he figures he has 25, maybe
30, Atkins albums. "Pick up a book or two, that kind of thing,
start playing tunes, playing in rock bands, learning that way,"
Jezzro says. "One thing led to another. You get better."
Jezzro got good enough to
earn a scholarship to West Virginia University in nearby
Morgantown-on bass. "I still kept playing guitar, but they
didn't have a guitar program," he says. "I wanted to go to
school there because it was close by, so I picked the bass and
really got into it." The year was 1976. "That fall, the
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra came to Morgantown and I got to meet
the principal bass player, Sam Hollingsworth. We immediately hit it
Hollingsworth took Jezzro
under his wing, preparing him for a professional career. By 1978,
Jack knew that if he wanted to become a professional, it was time to
move on. So he took the year off from school, playing in the
Charleston Symphony. In 1979, he moved to Rochester, N.Y., to
complete his music degree at the Eastman School of Music. He also
spent the summer of 1980 in Nashville, played in an Opryland show
and moved to Nashville permanently in 1981.
From 1981 to 1991, he
played bass in the Nashville Symphony, and in the mid-'80s, "began
breaking into the studio thing with the Nashville String Machine."
The Machine has worked on all kinds of albums, from James Ingram to
Matchbox 20 to Donna Summer to Deana Carter to Michael W. Smith to
the Beach Boys. "It's a great account," he says. "I
keep up my bass playing on that group."
In 1989, Jezzro released
the first of his many guitar records, the contemporary jazz outing Step
On It, for the Japanese label Pony Canyon. "That's where the
guitar records began," says Jezzro. Since then, he's released
quite a few, not counting Jazz Elegance, his Hillsboro debut.
Most were for Green Hill, Hillsboro's sister label. Jezzro also has
produced numerous instrumental albums including Not Just Another
Pretty Bass, the solo debut of Jim Ferguson, the exceptional
bassist on Jazz Elegance.
If session work is his
bread and butter, jazz is Jack Jezzro's higher calling. That, and
composing; besides the standards, Jazz Elegance features four
Jezzro originals. Call them family tunes.
his favorite song on the album, is about his 12-year-old daughter. Jake's
Tune is a "silly little tune" about his 6-year-old
son. Rose's Waltz is about his grandmother, Jeanette's
Day, about his wife. "This record is my first real jazz
standards record," says Jezzro. "In my mind, I knew I
would make a standards record when I felt ready. The originals were
just waiting. These tunes were written because I wanted to write
them, not for a specific project."
"I've loved playing
standards for a long time," he says. "There was really no
rhyme or reason for picking the ones I did, but I had an idea of the
record as a whole.
"When I practice, I
play standards and these kinds of melodies. We don't always do what
we love to do, but this is the kind of stuff I would do if I had the
opportunity to go out and do some playing, do some touring. I guess
we all try to find our unique voice. That's what we're all striving
for. I'm always going to be working for it."
With a master jazz
musician like Jack Jezzro, the work sounds-and pleases--like child's
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