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To Music by Jim Robitaille Group

To Music, by the Jim Robitaille Group, is a bit self-indulgent, but nonetheless a competent recording. Robitaille is a craftsman; his compositions are a fluid combination of his musical aptitude, intellect and wit. With the exception of Dave Liebman on tenor and soprano saxes, however, the entire band - including Matt Richard on piano, Dave Zinno on bass, and Chris Poudrier on drums - plays it close to the vest, not taking many chances in their improvisations. This is a shame given the rich harmonic palette Robitaille’s compositions provide for just that.

As a guitarist, Robitaille is a John Scofield clone. His tone and sense of phrasing both echo Scofield, but his compositions elicit the most comparison and similarity. Rich harmonic backdrops support straightforward fluid melodies. "Adagio" is perhaps the most striking tune in this respect. With the exception of the steel-string acoustic guitar taking the head, this could have been an out take from Scofield’s Quiet album. It only makes sense that Robitaille is a Boston-based guitarist coming into his own now. The Berklee-based worship of all things fusion is immediately evident in his playing. Thankfully, the balls-to-the-wall chorus/dirt tone exploited by the Scofield, Metheny, Stern, Abercrombie school is not something Robitaille is interested in, and in that he seems to make an attempt to carve out his own voice amongst these guitarists, even if he’s heavily under their shadow.

"West End Strut" is a highlight on the disc. A spiraling melody leads its way in and out of the static bass groove, and with Richard laying out on this track, Robitaille seems less concerned with cluttering up the rhythm section. His chorus has an edge to it here that’s not evident on other tracks. His angular style of comping also works best on this tune, especially underneath Liebman’s chorus. There is a symbiosis happening here that the rest of the disc lacks.

The final track, "Lost and Found," shows the band at its most cohesive. Poudrier and Zinno maintain a swinging drive that each of the soloists take particular advantage of. Again, Robitaille leaves the comping up to Richard, who is at his most subtle and tasteful on this track. He lays barely audible beneath Liebman’s solo, providing more coloristic effects than anything, evoking a pedal buzz that each of the soloists react well to.

When taking charge and playing the leader, Robitaille and this group can be something special. Too often, though, it seems as if Robitaille is content to play along, listening to the rest of the group playing his compositions.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jim Robitaille Group
  • CD Title: To Music
  • Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Modern
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Independent
  • Tracks: Freedom Waltz, Arthur C., Parallels, Adagio, West End Strut, Hypnotic Nights, Miro, Yesterdays, Lost and Found
  • Musicians: Jim Robitaille (electric and acoustic guitars), Dave Liebman (soprano and tenor saxophones), Matt Richard (piano), Dave Zinno (bass), Chris Poudrier (drums).
  • Rating: Three Stars
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