I’m sensing another trend in contemporary jazz. Here’s the formula: take a musician who has something new and original to say, and have that person play nearly every single jazz genre on an album. I call it the Billy Joel syndrome. Here’s some Brazilian jazz, here’s a ballad, here’s a clever arrangement of a well-known pop song, all to show you, dear listener, that I can do it all. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this approach, of course, providing that the star is the glue that holds the project together. There has to be a core originality somewhere to act as a common thread. Guitarist David Boswell knows this.
That aforementioned formula works well for a debut recording as a sort of formal introduction, but this new album from David Boswell, The Story Behind the Story, is far from his first album. He’s well-known in the San Francisco jazz scene, and he’s carved out a niche for himself for composing and arranging his originals in a way that captures the attention of Those Who Know Jazz. His style will first remind you of Pat Metheny (plaintive and longing are the two words I like to insert after employing that reference), and that makes sense since David Boswell was inspired by Metheny to enter the world of jazz back when he was young. Later, he studied with Metheny. And Dave Holland. And Jack DeJohnette.
That doesn’t necessarily make David Boswell a Metheny-esque guitarist. He uses those familiar tones to establish a familiarity, a safe haven of sorts, and then he encourages you to join him for a ride through town. It’s the same tour guide, so to speak, taking you different jazz clubs and showing you what’s possible. That’s not to say Pat Metheny doesn’t do exactly the same thing, but Boswell takes it a couple of counties away, staking out a territory of his own. You can hear this different perspective when Boswell picks up an acoustic guitar and you hear a new voice speaking through it, one that adds a little color to those open spaces where Metheny usually moves and breathes.
David Boswell had some real razzle dazzle on this album in order to keep his priorities clear. That includes bassist Jimmy Haslip (who seems to play on every contemporary jazz release this year), pianist Mitchel Forman, drummers Gary Novak and MB Gordy and many more. That alone is remarkable since The Story Behind the Story is so fluid and consistent, even with all the genre-hopping, that I tend to think this is a quartet or quintet that’s been together for decades. Instead, it’s that guitar that guides everyone, smooth and confident and so willing to plant vivid images in my brain. Metheny does that for me, but David Boswell can always join in and provide his take on what’s going on.