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Garden in the Rain by Jerry Krahn

For anyone who has ever attempted to play an archtop acoustic guitar, they know what a demanding beast she can be. This writer had one (inherited through two generations) as virtually his only guitar for most of high school, and as such can knowledgeably testify to the various challenges this particular instrument presents in the effort to wring appealing music from its hollow body. The most obvious of these is the delicate way that tone must be manipulated, in order to avoid a constant and flat sort of buzzing drone common to the instrument’s architecture. It can sound gorgeous - perhaps the most gorgeous of all guitars - but the musician’s control of dynamics must be absolutely flawless; articulation must be precise, forceful but not forced, and left open to run like a clear country stream.

Jerry Krahn has obviously invested quite a bit of time with his pearl-inlaid Epiphone (pictured on the cover). His fingers are fluid throughout this solo set, while maintaining a restraint that is absolutely imperative to the nature of the archtop. He has clearly wrestled with its most unnerving feature - its delight in exposing every minor flub, no matter how small - and found the ability to connect phrases with laidback confidence, tying together seams until they disappear. Occasionally, like at the end of "Indiana," Krahn’s backward-looking conceits get a little too cute, Djangoisms getting trampled in Joe Pass’ indomitable wake, but for the most part, he is thoroughly confident in his approach. Indeed, Krahn wears his influences and his obsessions openly on his happily strumming sleeve, cherry picking an enjoyable medley of long-loved standards and more obscure folk forms. If "Windy," where he is joined by an undistinguished set of bongos, is a little too cutesy and content, his readings of "Moonlight in Vermont," "Sweet Lorraine," and "Georgia on My Mind" are terrific, the guitarist allowing himself to breathe rhythmically, follow thoughts down fresh paths, and re-sing melodies with subtlety.

Garden in the Rain is very clearly intended to be a tribute to this particular instrument and the practitioners that have built a folk-based tradition around it, tying it inextricably to roots that clutch with their calm and melancholy characteristics. In keeping the scope nice and narrow conceptually, Krahn allows plenty of exploratory room in which to display the products of his (obviously) hard work. Technique and taste are not always a revolutionary combination, but they are very often, as here, an appealing one. All out swingsidized romps like "Dinah" and "Indiana" are tempered by the thoughtful patience of "What a Wonderful World" and "I Wish You Love," Krahn on the latter calmly collecting a walking bass line, comped chords, and two-bar breaks into his four fingered attack. It is particularly in the many medleys he includes where he offers true diversity, a fluency with dynamics; for instance, surrendering his shimmering single-note runs of "Wish You Love" to the more full-bodied but fragile melody of "When I Fall in Love." This coda caps a multi-faceted performance, rounding off the edges and showing imagination. And certainly, while Krahn may not convert anyone with this relaxed release, its display of his fullness of articulation, emulation of influences, and sensitivity to his instrument’s intricacies will satisfy all the true believers.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jerry Krahn
  • CD Title: Garden in the Rain
  • Genre: Folk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Heartdance Music
  • Rating: Three Stars
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