Amos Garrett achieves long-held ambition: Ace guitarist releases live debut jazz CD on Stony Plain Records on June 4
Over a four-decade career, there’s not a lot that guitarist Amos Garrett hasn’t done.
As one of the most distinctive guitar players since the Telecaster was invented, he’s made almost a dozen albums of his own, most of them for the Edmonton-based label Stony Plain. He’s appeared on more than 150 artists’ recordings, and he’s played rock and roll, folk, country, blues and pop, and you can hear him on records with Paul Butterfield, Ian Tyson, Bonnie Raitt, Jesse Winchester, Maria Muldaur, Emmylou Harris and even Anne Murray.
But he’s never recorded a jazz album.
On June 4, Stony Plain will release Jazzblues, the Amos Garrett Jazz Trio’s debut album, which will include pieces by Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Freddie Hubbard, all modern jazz players who were steeped in the blues.
“What we‘re doing is bringing the blues back to jazz — it used to a major part of jazz, but along the way the music got too complicated, some of the musicians got too self-involved, and the blues got lost,” he says.
He pauses, and adds: “And a lot of jazz fans got lost too. It would be nice to get a few of them back in the fold.”
Garrett doesn’t see his jazz album as a major stretch, in large because the common root of the blues is as instantly recognizable as Garrett’s unique sound.
The new recording features bassist Greg Carroll as the rock Garrett and Calgary guitar virtuoso Keith Smith lean on.
Smith, almost unknown outside Alberta, is adept at chord soloing and the use of elaborate plucked harmonics and alternating harmonics and natural fretted notes. “You know,” Garrett laughs, “all those things pioneered by Ed Bickert and Chet Atkins and then taken to the moon by Lenny Breau.”
In addition to the pieces by Miles, Monk and Hubbard there are other gems on the CD, all of it recorded live at various concerts in Western Canada. Among them, a stunning vocal by Roberta Donnay on “Skylark,” an old Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer tune.
There’s another classic from the American songbook, “Cocktails for Two,” and a medley of two tunes by Bob Erlendson, a Calgary-based jazz player whom Garrett has long admired — and who taught the late Lenny Breau.
Garrett remains as active as ever. There are continuing gigs with the Jazz Trio, he’ll be leading the famed House Band at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival again this summer, and there will be dates across Canada. And he’s going to teach at a music camp in Alaska. The Jazz Trio is set to appear at the Vancouver Island Folk Festival, and Amos will play an all-star guitar session with James Burton, Albert Lee and David Wilcox — a serious amount of twang power. And, of course, he still has his powerful blues band of 25 years, the Eh! Team.
Sounds like a jazz life, indeed…
Jzzzblues will be distributed in Canada via Warner Music, in the U.S. by ADA, and in Europe by CRS.