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Russ Pettit - 2017 - "Travels of a Fallen Leaf"

(42:06; Russ Pettit)


TRACK LIST:                 

1. Causeway 5:38 
2. Spanish Sky 4:30 
3. Hotel California 7:31 
4. The Chase 4:33 
5. Travels of a Fallen Leaf 4:35 
6. Transition 4:57 
7. Duojets 5:50	
8. Insomnia 4:32


Russ Pettit - guitars
Willie Garza - percussion
Daniel Yarritu - guitars
Ron Sotelo - bass
Elzbieta Polak - violin
Peter Block - flute
Steven Husted - bass

Prolusion. US composer and musician Russ Pettit has been active as a musician and guitar teacher for 30 years or thereabouts, and I understand he has mainly been active in various band settings over the years. One of these being the trio R Cubed, that I faintly recall covering some years back. As a solo artist Pettit has two albums to his name so far. He made his solo debut with "The Endless Journey" back in 2006, and then he self-released his second solo album "Travels of a Falling Leaf" back in 2017. It is the latter of these which has been submitted for a review.

Analysis. It's been a while since I have encountered music of this kind, as music with a foundation in jazz, jazz-rock and world music haven't really been one of my strengths as writer. Mainly because I do not listen to music of this type of music for pleasure, but also because my knowledge in these territories is somewhat limited. I understand that this type of music will often be sorted under the world fusion description though, which should indicate quite nicely what this album is all about for those who choose to read my words. There is more to music than merely tossing genre descriptions around of course. And a core trait of this album is that it has a decidedly acoustic atmosphere to it. There's no fuzz or distortion to be found, and the guitars in particular all sound very acoustic indeed. A stable but subtly expressive rhythm guitar backing up dominant, wandering and what I'd generally describe as plucked guitar solo runs is a staple throughout. Often and mostly elegant, even when doing some scale run like movements, occasionally stretching a bit too far into the more quirky and presumably technical landscapes that I'm not all that fascinated by myself. A violin is brought in tom add flavor to some tracks, as is a flute, and unless I'm much mistaken the bassist gets a few moments to shine throughout as well. Rather more important is the manner in which the supporting guitar and the bass guitar support, supplement and complement the lead guitar throughout of course. It is in the movements between these instruments that I find that subtle touch that elevates the listener experience from a pleasant one to an engaging one. That a good percussionist is used is obviously also a good thing, although one kind of expects that the musicians used on an album such as this has a certain quality to them. Still, it is the interplay between the string instrumentalists that gives this album an additional shine. Otherwise I note that some of the compositions appears to revolve more strongly around a Latin or Spanish touch than others, the differences being perhaps rather subtle, but at least in my mind the more distinct jazz orientation is the ingredient that ebbs and flows in intensity or presence, trading places with the Latin or Spanish details. Quite a few compositions features some details I'd loosely describe as Flamenco-oriented, which of course gives the parts they are present in something of a dramatic flair. I also note that the compositions by and large are uplifting, positive and rather vibrant. The cover track present, 'Hotel California', is an interesting one. It follows the original rather closely for 5 minutes or so, using mainly the acoustic guitar in place of the vocals, and then for the final two minutes or so the musicians gets to be a bit more expressive here, subtly transforming the final third or so of the song. The differences aren't massive, but at least in my mind they are very much present.

Conclusion. As stated earlier, this isn't a type of music I'm intimately familiar with. That being said, I do find this album to be a really enjoyable one, and one I also find rather easy to recommend to a specific audience. Those who generally love and treasure the material where the giants Al Di Meola and Paco De Lucia combine their efforts will probably treasure this fine album. And as Pettit is inspired by the original guitar trio featuring those two gentlemen and John McLaughlin, chances are high that those who treasure those recordings will find this album to be of interest as well.

Progmessor: October 13th 2019
The Rating Room

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