Tosh Sheridan likes to play nylon-string acoustic guitar, and this album displays that in abundance. Now, before you dismiss this as wine bar or bookstore music, give it a listen. You may be surprised at his versatility, his technique, or his evident charm. He takes a baker's dozen of standards, blues, and even pop tunes, makes them do tricks in a leisurely fashion, and teams with other guitarists on nearly half the pieces to provide fascinating listening for jazz guitar fans.
Sheridan is of a younger generation of guitarists. He graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 1998, with a Master's in jazz performance from City College of New York in 2004. He's been working in the New York scene for a number of years. A student of Gene Bertoncini, his style is somewhat similar, but he has his own sound, despite both having a penchant for nylon and a tendency to show Spanish and classical influences. This is Sheridan's debut album, and he invited his mentor and John Stowell along for the ride, thus including three generations of guitar masters. The program for the album mixes duos and solos, so that Sheridan maximizes the diversity of sound from track to track.
Some of the standards are by no means easy ones. "Giant Steps" is a tough go as a solo piece, but Sheridan makes it work for him, in part by keeping it short and to the point. He stretches out a bit on the duos, where he gives his guests plenty of room to make their own statements. Sheridan and Bertoncini weave together very nicely. There's a bit more distance between Sheridan and Stowell, perhaps because of slightly different temperaments, but the result is a greater distinction between them with more intriguing, and slightly more dissonant results. Of course dissonance is relative, and these guys never quite reach a boil in terms of decibels, speed, or aggression. "Bluesette" is a case in point, where the two guitarists' amazing technique is on display and they trade solos, but just as often play intricate themes simultaneously.
"Willow Weep for Me" is the track where Sheridan and Bertoncini shine. They blues it up, and sound like they're having a great time. Sheridan's solo work impresses me the most on the last two pieces, "Jitterbug Waltz' and "Something," where he plays the Waller and Harrison tunes fairly straight. He sounds earnest and in the moment.
For acoustic guitar fans, this album is a gold mine. For those who might like more variety in instrumentation, perhaps Sheridan's next album will demonstrate his diversity more openly.