I’ll count The Jim Robitaille Group’s newest recording "To Music" as one of the nice surprises I received this past holiday season.
Robitaille is a Berklee-bred guitarist who hails from New Bedford, Mass, where he writes and performs regularly, usually with the same nucleus of musicians. On this recording, however, he recruited the venerable talent of Dave Liebman, who shines and takes the spotlight throughout on soprano and tenor saxes.
"To Music" features eight tracks written by Robitaille, along with a cover of Jerome Kern’s "Yesterdays." Robitaille cites Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery and John Ambercrombie as influences. His playing is smooth and graceful, while his compositions build depth based on interesting leading chord progressions. Case in point is the opener, "Freedom Waltz," which also features a series of nice solos from Robitaille, Liebman and pianist Matt Richard.
"Arthur C." is catapulted by the fiery playing of Liebman. As the name suggests, "Adagio" is a slower ballad that captures more of Robitaille’s compositional skills, his work on acoustic guitar and a pleasing bass solo from Dave Zinno. "West End Strut" is funky romp in odd-time that gives Liebman more room to shine.
On many pieces, Liebman and Robitaille often double up to play melodies in tandem, providing a nice blend in sounds between guitar and sax. It’s in good keeping with the entire recording, which displays a fine blend of talent, composition and craft.