American guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg brings his quartet to the England and Ireland for dates in Cambridge, Manchester, Dublin and London in November. It is the first visit to these shores for the group since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Well known for his contribution to excellent bands lead by Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joe Locke and Ari Hoenig, Kreisberg is also now firmly established as a bandleader, bringing a thorough knowledge of jazz, depth of experience on the New York scene and an open minded approach evident in his writing and improvising. Tour preview by Dan Paton
A live recording from 2019, “Capturing Spirits”, finds the Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet (albeit in a different iteration from the group touring in the UK, with Kreisberg and drummer Colin Stranahan as the two consistent members) playing with intensity, fluidity and occasional restraint. While the album features Martin Bejerano on Piano and Matt Clohesy on Bass, the quartet touring Europe includes Marko Churnchetz and Phil Donkin, a bass player well known to UK jazz audiences. This is a small ensemble line-up of exceptional quality and depth. Kreisberg, well known for his contribution to excellent bands lead by Hammond B3 legend Dr. Lonnie Smith, Joe Locke and Ari Hoenig, is also now firmly established as a bandleader, bringing a thorough knowledge of jazz, depth of experience on the New York scene and an open minded approach evident in his writing and improvising.
Kreisberg has been a wide ranging and versatile musician over the course of his career, having worked with a progressive rock group (Third Wish), performed 20th Century works with the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas, released an excellent solo guitar album (2013’s “One”) and built a longstanding musical relationship with nylon string guitarist Nelson Veras. His own work as a leader sounds confidently contemporary, but also draws from the jazz tradition, and Kreisberg is not averse to including standards and well known jazz compositions in his track lists (Capturing Spirits ends with a version of “Body and Soul”, he has recorded “Stella By Starlight” more than once and his 2004 trio album “Nine Stories Wide” includes an engaging take on “Summertime” rearranged in 5, later reprised as a solo piece on “One”).
Much of Kreisberg’s own music is kinetic, often both supported and enhanced by his quick witted rhythm sections, with an agility to the music’s rhythm and movement. Kreisberg’s intuitive and interactive musical relationship with drummer Colin Stranahan is now cemented through a variety of line-ups, and Kreisberg has also recorded with two excellent trios. One of these unites Kreisberg with the great Larry Grenadier and Bill Stewart, another with Gary Versace and Mark Ferber. While there is clearly a strong emphasis on rhythm in his work, the results never sound cluttered, bustling or frantic, in large part due to his judicious use of form and space. The original compositions included on “Capturing Spirits” have a feeling of being at once both a science and an art – there is both an internal logic and an elegance to the writing, perhaps most clearly heard in the compelling, richly melodic “Relativity”.
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“The Lift” moves from an inistent, memorable riff at an exciting pace to a lightly swinging section to support a piano solo, via some knotty and intricate lines from Kreisberg. By way of contrast, the beautiful Everything Needs Something is a slow grooving ballad, with a hint that Kreisberg may enjoy contemporary R&B, and with considered use of space.
Indeed, this use of space informs even the brisker tunes, as Kreisberg’s improvising is characterised with thoughtful variation in pacing and the in the shape and length of his phrases. On the excellent Trust Fall, he plays a lyrical and fluid guitar solo than has plenty of breathing space within it, even as his lines start to cascade with a sense of effortlessness. Kreisberg has said that he is in large part inspired by horn players in the way that he constructs his lines.
On the release of the album “Wave Upon Wave” in 2014 (with Will Vinson featured on saxophone and Kevin Hays on piano, alongside Kreisberg and Stranahan), Kreisberg’s explantion of the title said much about his approach to jazz: “Relentlessly breaking on the shore, and each bringing forth the codes of the past…But also from the depths comes something new.” Kreisberg’s music does not necessarily sound as if he is attempting to reinvent the wheel, or be part of any particular trend or modish development. He is unshowy in style, but his melodies and his playing clearly demonstrate a commitment to understanding the history of the music. Yet there is also a sense of development, of finding the elements of a distinctive voice.
Kreisberg has an ability to reshape and refashion recognisable elements and influences into something innovative, nuanced and textured. On this European tour, the band proposes to play material from across Kreisberg’s catalogue, alongside pieces from “Catching Spirits” and some brand new compositions. It will be fascinating to get a small sense of where they are heading next.
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Jonathan Kreisberg – guitar
Marko Churnchetz – piano
Phil Donkin – bass
Colin Stranahan – drums
Jonathan Kreisberg England tour dates:
Sunday 5 November.
STAPLEFORD GRANARY, Cambridge
Stapleford Granary, Bury Road, Stapleford, Cambridge CB22 5BP.
Ticket link: https://www.staplefordgranary.org.uk/whats-on/events
Monday 6 November.
NQ JAZZ, Manchester.
The Yard, 11 Bent Street, Manchester M8 8NF.
Ticket link https://www.nqjazz.co.uk/whats-on/jonathankresiberg
(Tuesday 7 November in Dublin / Arthur’s Pub, Thomas St. Dublin 8 / Two sets – Bookings)
Wednesday 8 November.
PIZZA EXPRESS JAZZ CLUB, London.
Pizza Express Jazz Club, 10 Dean Street, London W1D 3RW
Ticket link: https://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/whats-on/jonathan-kreisberg-quartet