The Massachusetts-based Mill City Trio stirs up a quiet brand of intensity on Looking Up, with the somewhat unusual instrumentation of drums and two guitars. Drummer Anthony D'Anna provides a delicate, yet driving foundation for guitarists Jamie Dunphy and Greg Passler who display a like-minded approach to jazz guitar.
Exchanging solo lines full of quick wit and swinging exuberance, the two revive the spirit of celebrated guitar duo outings with the likes Herb Ellis and Joe Pass on original pieces such as "What to Do If You Miss the Rapture" and "125th and Amsterdam." Guitaristic-voicings and arpeggios make for unique flavors on the bluesy "Hevilo," and the straight pulse of "Come Up For Air." When Passler takes up the electric bass on "Looks Like Rain," Dunphy digs in to a punchy Kenny Burrell vibe. The switch to acoustic guitars helps create a Spanish flavor on "Whirlpool." The soloing is technically proficient throughout without being over indulgent.
With an all original set of tunes, including Dunphy's arrangement of a traditional Korean melody, Mill City Trio succeeds at being both inventive and accessible with a mellow sound, heavy on lyricism. The listener-friendly grooves, spurred by D'Anna's skillful brush work encourage rapt attention and repeated listening.