“Phil’s Blues”: Swinging New Music from Acme Jazz Garage 

When last we left Acme Jazz Garage from Tampa, the world looked a wee bit different than it does right now. They had unloosed their magnificent song “Rumba Misterioso,” and all was right with the world. Somehow, in the midst of all the insanity since then, we did not write about the excellent follow-up, “Sharkskin,” and now we have the third entry from what promises to be a great new album in aggregate.

Acme Jazz Garage

The group, with Philip Booth, basses; Matt Swenson, guitars; Bryan Lewis, keyboards; and Pat Close, drums; was recorded, mixed and mastered by engineer John Stephan at the historic Springs Theatre in Tampa, where many area musicians go to take advantage of impeccable recording conditions. They record via the Solar Grooves label.

“Rhumba Misterioso” was a wonderful blend of traditional and modern Latin jazz, connecting the dots from Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri to Maqueque and Miguel Zenon. The spectacular video that accompanied it is a gem.

“Sharkskin” goes in a different direction, recalling beautiful fusion ballads of the 1970s. The song, released in May, has four sections. Lewis begins on unaccompanied piano, a gorgeous intro, and the sound is superb. Then Swenson takes over with an unhurried solo reminiscent of Jeff Beck, Pete Carr, and Al di Meola, truly wonderful. In the background, in addition to piano, Lewis spreads a wash of synth strings underneath. Meanwhile, Booth and Close provide the perfect foundation. Booth is always inventive, and Close doesn’t waste a lick. As the tune switches back to Lewis again for a tremendous long solo, guest Michael Washington’s percussion stands out even more. And Swenson gets the last word, restating the theme. Booth plays the Fender Tony Franklin fretless bass guitar (and a smidgen of Ibanez fretted six-string). He wrote the “main theme” (A section). Lewis wrote chords/rhythms for the funky B section, and Matt wrote melody for B section. Chase Booth designed the cover.

“Phil’s Blues,” just released July 24, is a good old-school blues, jazzy AJG-style, written by Booth. It starts with the vamp, centered on Booth’s upright bass and both piano and organ from Lewis. Swenson launches into a swinging jazz blues solo, Close keeping everybody in line with his precise time. When Booth gets some fine solo space, Close supports, then Swenson and Lewis comp beneath him. His bass tone is just so fat. Lewis then hits that soul blues groove, swinging all the way. As they return to the theme, Close closes with a real flourish.

Three great new songs so far. We’re looking forward to the next one and the complete album!





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