Being an aficionado of Earl Klugh, old George Benson, Gabor Szabo, Louis Kabok , and every jazz gent who could strip a song down to its basics and make it sing all the more brightly in its shining core, I immediately took to this short and simple solo guitar (sometimes doubled up) jazz recital by Dave McCullough. Though he keeps it mostly slow and easy, the guy's nonetheless doing much of what Kenny Burrell, Herb Ellis, and Grant Green had crafted so many years ago, but somewhat more in line with Charlie Byrd. This 8-song collection is so well wrought, in fact, that not only is every note and chord crucial but the very spaces between are just as considered and complementary.
The hallowed standards are hallowed and are standards for a reason. No matter how often you hear them, unless performed by a brickbrain, they remain fresh and innovative, often encapsulations of their times, so when you see Summertime, Misty, and Giant Steps are among the offerings in Pharr, don't even begin to think "Oh geez, not again!" or you'll be depriving yourself of a treat. The sensitivities and interpretations here preserve the full intent of the originals while throwing McCullough's talent for perfect voicing and inflection into the equation. I'm a sucker for cover CDs, and when buying one, always fervently hope for a gentle snowfall of good fortune; here, an avalanche descended. It's exceedingly rare to catch work this brilliant. A couple of times, he switches out the gorgeously and discreetly swingin' melodious for a fling or two, as in Giant Steps, losing nothing in the process, demonstrating a burning prowess obviously extending well beyond the highly polished selections.
Were I to catch McCullough at a posh dinner spot or nightclub, I'd keep ordering food and drinks just to hear him, and they'd have to crowbar me out the door at closing time, protesting all the way. Despite whatever embarrassments I might cause myself, I'd happily deploy such antics, as this disc of only 25 minutes is just too heartbreakingly brief, every micron of it worthy of Blue Note or CTI. If you caught Jake Shimabukoro's or Mimi Fox's solo work of late, Pharr slots right in with those in terms of drop-dead absolute modern classicality. The guy is a master.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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