|With this CD, Jake Langley, already established as a pre-eminent hard bop guitarist on the same top ten shortlist as Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, and Russell Malone, is diggin' into his roots. It's a dig I do dig.
Teamed with the incredible Joey DeFrancesco on B3 and backed by the award-winning Terry Clarke's drum-kit, Jake digs into tunes that are thoughtfully chosen to explore some hardbop homeland terrain. Of Jake and Joey's work together I'd say, Jake holds the circumferential line, while Joey flows out from the centre.
Dexter Gordon's "Cheesecake" (Bluenote, 1964), Wes Montgomery's 1965 Verve recording of "O.G.D.", with Jimmy Smith on the organ; "Gibraltar" by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard who'd played with Wes Montgomery; "Sugar", by tenorman Stanley Turrentine, recorded in '70 with George Benson on guitar and Butch Cornell on organ. And going back to pre-bop 1941, Arthur Herzog Jr. and Billy Holiday's "God Bless the Child", the best tune of them all. The cuts average around 8 minutes, long enough to include an extended intro, usually by Jake, who takes the first solo chorus, followed by Joey D's solo and an arranged closing chorus, though Joey leads the way in "Sugar" where it seems to me his supremely juicy funky blues chops rub off on Jake and take him to a new level.
The set-list also includes Jake's composition, "Garage" a very good tune which seems to owe something to Montgomery's O.G.D. This one gets Jake worked up to playing some very, very fast riffs, with his usual precision, though his best hi-speed solo is on "Gibraltar" which also has his most 'spacey' work on it.
There is also Don Thompson's "Blues for Jim San", a light tune, where Jake's playing displays noticeably cooler tones and more intellectual runs than the high contrast deep down gutsy swarming and warbling Joey D lays down on the B3. But the best is yet to come, and that's Jake's playing on "God Bless the Child." Such restrained, blue delicacy, elegant phrasing and tender feeling during the introductory bars and the first guitar solo, worthy of Bill Frissell, who is not on the top hardbop list. Nonetheless. And Jake's comp work lends just the right low-key shading to Joey D's vivid solo.
There is a lot of focus and commitment in this album, coming as it does just a year after Jake's Seajam Album, Non Fiction: nine original compositions that explore "the roots of funk, Acid Jazz, R&B and Latin." That album is rich in talent and enjoyable, but focuses less on Jake, more on sidemen and ensemble work and is not as serious about his jazz playing as Diggin' In.