I acquired a copy of the latest CD featuring Clint Hoover, Reynold D. Philipsek’s “East Side”, at SPAH in August 2010, and had the chance to listen to it all…

I acquired a copy of the latest CD featuring Clint Hoover, Reynold D. Philipsek’s “East Side”, at SPAH in August 2010, and had the chance to listen to it all the way through on a long drive last night. Here’s a quick summary of the brief review that follows: this is one of the best jazz harmonica CDs ever recorded, not to mention one of the best chromatic harmonica records I’ve ever heard, and if you have the slightest interest in either jazz or chromatic harmonica, you need to stop reading this review right now and go buy the CD.

Slightly extended review: on this record Clint is in the company of Reynold D. Philipsek (guitar), Matt Senjem (acoustic bass) and Michael Bissonnette (percussion). Philipsek is the apparent leader, but Clint gets a lot of space on this CD to show what he can do. And man, does he ever. If you didn’t know that this was the guitarist’s band, you’d think Clint was the leader. The word for his playing on this CD is “heroic.” He executes tricky chromatic harp lines that would tie most players in knots with absolute ease; I don’t think there is anything he can hear in his inner ear that he can’t play. His tone is big and bold, with plenty of expressive power.

The band’s sound is full and cohesive with only four instruments. The general style is tonal (meaning this is not free jazz) with sophisticated harmonies. Stylistic reference points include Miles Davis, Astor Piazzola, and Herbie Hancock circa “Maiden Voyage.” The ensemble writing is brilliant–on one piece, I swear that I heard the guitar and harmonica parts as massed trumpets. (The liner notes say they’re not.) The tonal palette is very much in the range of a classic jazz quartet–no big FX, no wah wah, no nothin’ like that, just straight-up instruments being played to pieces. (There’s maybe a little more grind in the guitarist’s tone than you might have heard in 1960, but it’s not much compared to what shred guitarists do these days.)

The CD contains 6 pieces with over 35 minutes of music, some of it hard-driving, some beautiful enough to make me catch my breath while I was listening last night. There’s not a lot of blues, and what blues is here is presented in a very sophisticated way. Gutbucket it ain’t. Fresh it is.

Clint has been showcased on a number of CDs in the past several years, including the brilliant jazz record “Dream of the Serpent Dog,” the good-humored old-timey Sugar Kings record “Take Your Time, Mrs. Brown”, the straight-up jazz of “on This Day,” and others. For my money, this is his best work on record to date, which is really saying something, and it firmly establishes Clint as one of the handful of the world’s most accomplished jazz harmonica players.

I repeat that anyone who loves either jazz or chromatic harmonica needs a copy of this CD, right now. Go get it. You can thank me later.

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