Why is it that we’re always stunned when one of our favorite artists jumps from one genre to another? Why would anyone ever leave the exciting profitable sanctuary of rock music to enter into an idiom that doesn’t lend itself to great financial reward or expansive commercial exposure? Why would former Billy Idol/Vince Neil guitarist Steve Stevens foray into flamenco or guitar great Randy Rhoads decide months before he died, that he was going to leave the enormously successful Ozzy Osbourne gig in favor of furthering his classical guitar studies? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. But on the other hand, it makes perfect sense. It’s the longing for an artist to return to his roots; to the music that inspired them to take up the instrument in the first place.
Steve Stevens first guitar instructor was a flamenco guitarist, Randy Rhoads was inspired early by classical guitar music. Guitarist Jeff Golub is no different. As a hotshot rock guitarist, Golub spent the early eighties achieving success with Billy Squier and from 1988-95 touring and recording with Rod Stewart. He has worked with artists like Peter Wolf (J. Giels), ex-Baby’s vocalist John Waite, Vanessa Williams and Ashford & Simpson while also working as one of New York’s most called upon session players and sidemen. While his fans knew him primarily as a rock guitarist, Jeff Golub’s passion has always been the blues and his later jazz inclinations. His earliest influences were jazz and blues artists such as Wes Montgomery, B.B. King, Charlie Parker, and Albert King.
When Golub left Rod Stewart’s band he formed the contemporary jazz outfit Avenue Blue and it’s self-titled debut release was an immediate success, as were subsequent releases Naked City and Nightlife. On the heels of Golub’s critically acclaimed 1999 solo offering Out of the Blue comes his latest and most challenging release to date, Dangerous Curves. What made this such a challenging record was the fact that it was recorded in just eight days, tracking it live and mixing after each session. The result of this approach is a buoyant, lively record that sounds as if were recorded in the cozy confines of a smoky jazz/blues club.
The direction of this record as Golub explains “was a kind of minimalist, soul-jazz approach featuring acoustic bass, vintage keyboards and me playing mostly hollow-body jazz guitar.” In addition to Golub the record features Mitch Forman (keyboards), Lincoln Goines (bass), Steve Ferrone (drums), Dave Woodford (sax, flutes), Lee Thornburg (trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone), Kevin Savigar (Hammond B-3), Luis Conte (percussion) and guest appearance by acoustic guitarist Peter White. While the record is Golub’s solo effort, the feel is that of a cooperative spirit with each musician enabled to shine when called upon.
Their are some outstanding tracks on this record. The bebop-tinged title track features Golub’s resonate silky-smooth lines bouncing across the speakers while Goines’ funky bass lines and Woodford and Thornburg’s brass inflections carry the action in an uplifting direction. The soul-inspired “Droptop” features Golub’s knack for sweet improvisation. A real standout is “No Two Ways About It” featuring acoustic whiz Peter White doubling Golub’s melodic lines with bright and brisk clarity. Then there is the wonderfully subdued “Gone But Not Forgotten” and three carefully selected cover tunes in “Mr. Magic,“a tribute to Grover Washington, Jr., King Curtis’ “Soul Serenade” and rather unique version of Smashmouth’s “Walking on the Sun.”
Whether it’s rock, jazz or blues, Jeff Golub is always in his element and his musical boundaries limitless. Dangerous Curves proves that whatever musical terrain he wishes to explore, he conquers with fire and passion.
// Notes from the Road
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