Guitarist Earl Klugh is one of the last unsung emissaries of modern jazz. For more than thirty years, Earl has adopted a posture that has allowed him to survive the transformation of contemporary stylized music into the ideology of smooth jazz entertainment. Although his popularity is well-documented as one of jazz’s premier guitarists, he has not been high on the list of priorities as a smooth jazz radio staple.
Amazingly and without the benefit of consistent airplay, Earl has amassed a huge fan base over the years and continues to be in constant demand for appearances in concerts and festivals. Here of late, Earl has not consistently recorded any new material at regular intervals, yet his trademark acoustic guitar is a highly sought after commodity by most standards of familiarity. Recently, Klugh decided the time was right to re-introduce himself to the jazz scene with a brand new release entitled Naked Guitar on the KOCH Record Label. On 14 introspective tracks, Earl’s acoustic sound highlights a multitude of personal perspectives.
This new offering from Earl Klugh delivers an amazing array of well-known jazz tracks and popularized cover songs. For jazz connoisseurs familiar with his earlier work, Naked Guitar is an improvisational masterpiece that is reminiscent of the days when acoustic jazz guitar was quite the norm. For jazz beginners, the dynamic nature of Earl’s unique style is engaging enough to put aside subjective biases. Klugh makes the process of listening easier with a number of popular classics that are quite familiar. His mesmerizing rendition of "Alice in Wonderland" is mystical and intimate in approach, while also displaying an all too characteristic softness as well. On a more personal note, I enjoyed "Angelina," which was featured on his 1976 debut release. That cut is more upbeat in style and provides an opposing point of view of sorts. The song is proof positive that Earl Klugh is not merely a one-dimensional musician with nothing to offer a cross a wider spectrum of interpretation. Other tracks on the album including the ever popular "Moon River" and "Summer Knows" exhibit an intimacy filled with warmth. Overall, there are 14 illustrious tracks including one original composition, with each offering a storied perspective on one of jazz’s most prolific guitarists.Earl Klugh has recorded an acoustical masterpiece with the release of Naked Guitar. The album is devoid of extravagant nuances and is technically enlightening. Although the release is subtle in approach, the listening moments are never dull. All in all, Earl Klugh continues a journey that continues to be expressive and endearing, especially to an entirely new generation of fans. What is intriguing, many of them have only just begun to discover the immense depth contained in the music of Earl Klugh.