Tuesday, February 2, 2016

John Basile: Penny Lane

Stringtime Jazz
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Penny Lane

John Basile is a well-known guitarist; he’s also an adept computer programmer. He employs both skills for this release.

Basile was born in Boston, and educated at the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music. Like many musicians, he moved to New York City, where he became a first-call artist for numerous vocalists and small jazz groups. It’s interesting to note that his major influences haven’t been other guitarists, but vocalist Frank Sinatra and pianist Bill Evans. 

Basile’s technique is different; his finger-style combines the melodic line with fragments of chord structure. Then — and this results in a huge impact — he uses MIDI computer programming to expand the sound into a musical background, which results in a virtual “combo,” rather than just a solo guitar.

This album’s title highlights the source of the musical menu: All 14 melodies are famous hits by The Beatles. If you’re both a jazz and Beatles fan, you’ll love this album.

A few caveats, however: Many of these tracks electronically fade out, rather than being allowed to run their course. In some cases, that results in a relatively abrupt ending. Basile perhaps could have done better justice to a smaller number of tunes.

Additionally, the MIDI “sweetening,” blended with guitar, occasionally winds up sounding like Muzak. Listeners might feel that they’ve wandered into a department store. Even so, Basile’s skillful technique, along with the Beatles menu, are enough to make this a must-have album.

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