Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wayne Krantz

For years now guitar wizard Wayne Krantz has been one of my all-time favorite players. In my quest to try to hear everything he ever played on, I just came upon a used copy of a CD he did in 1989 while a member of the band Urban Earth featuring Harvie Swartz, titled Full Moon Dancer. If you read the review of it on the All Music website that I link to here, you'll see that they find it's a bit tepid, and I concur. Yet the players are all really good, and Krantz as usually really shines. Even at this point in his career when he was first making a splash, his playing had a special something that made him stand out amidst the pack of fusiony guitar slingers. The one track he wrote for this date, "Five Years," is easily the best one on the album.

So I'll take this chance to just quietly rave about Wayne Krantz.

I first came upon his name in the credits of former Weather Report bassist Victor Bailey's debut solo album, Bottom's Up, from 1989. I had listened to the opening track, "Kid Logic," and there was a guitar solo that made my ears perk up. Back then I couldn't yet go to the Internet and Google the name, but I filed it away in my brain and kept my antennae up for more from him.

Soon enough I found him on some releases from Leni Stern in the early nineties. Then, if I remember correctly, I read a brief review of his own CD,1995's 2 Drink Minimum, in some magazine, and was inspired to pick it up. To say my socks were knocked off is putting it mildly. A live trio recording from a performance at New York's 55 Bar, it is just chock-full of Wayne's amazing harmonic sense, incredible time, and dazzling single-line improvising. In the few things I'd heard earlier, he was an excellent player in the vein of a Mike Stern or maybe a Scott Henderson, but by the time of this live recording, he was totally in a world of his own. His playing is perhaps the most distinctive of all guitar players I've ever heard. His ideas are as fresh and cliche-free as possible.

Of course I had to go right out and get his earlier two CDs on Enja, Signals and Long To Be Loose.

In the late 90's and into the 21st century Krantz released on his own label a couple of albums that were edited-down fragments from hours and hours of live recordings made at the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village, NY: Greenwich Mean in 1999, Your Basic Live in 2003, and Your Basic Live '06 in (duh) 2006. He also played on several other people's projects, notably Chris Potter's Underground, Tal Wilkenfeld's Transformation, and several releases by David Binney.

In 2009 he finally released his first studio recording since the mid-nineties, Krantz Carlock Lefebvre, on the Abstract Logix label. It was one of my favorite records of the year.

A recent news item from the label says he will have a new CD titled Howie 61 to be released in April 2012. I can't wait! Here's a promotional video I just discovered this minute.

Some WK links:

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