Don’t get me wrong; I love guitars — but I honestly can’t tell one guitarist from another. So unless they’re also great composers — in a league with Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Rodgers and so on — I need to hear them play familiar melodies in order to express some sort of informed opinion. Tomas Janzon, who seems to be an exceedingly capable player, doesn’t give me much help, performing seven of his original compositions on X–Changes, none of which is likely to lessen the stature of any of the aforementioned songwriters. The exceptions are Wayne Shorter’s “Fee–Fi–Fo–Fum” and Victor Young’s standard, “Beautiful Love.” Janzon plays everything well, mind you, but to me, “Beautiful Love” (on which drummer Billy Higgins replaces the underrated Sherman Ferguson) is the unequivocal highlight, as it’s the only tune I can relate to. The rest is simply good–natured guitar–trio music, suitably well–framed but as a whole no better than most I’ve heard. The trio play well together, with Ferguson and bassist Nedra Wheeler steady and unassuming except on “Six on Five,” where Ferguson does tend to overwork the cymbals and drop a few too many bombs during Janzon’s solo. Tenor saxophonist Louis Taylor, who makes it a quartet on Janzon’s “Blue Frog,” “Catch’er” and “No Moe,” could have phoned in his assignment, as he never solos and does no more than help the leader state the melody. This is a pretty good trio led by a pretty good guitarist; what it could use, as we’ve already suggested, is more Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, Rodgers and so on.
Contact: Changes Music, P.O. Box 1045, Los Angeles, CA 90078. Phone 323–993–5709; web site, www.tomasjanzon.com
Track Listing: Space Mail; 27 Years; The Blue Frog; Beautiful Love; Six on Five; Catch’er; Archipelago Away; Fee–Fi–Fo–Fum; No Moe (45:50).
Personnel: Tomas Janzon, guitar; Louis Taylor (3, 6, 9), tenor sax; Nedra Wheeler, bass; Sherman Ferguson, Billy Higgins (4), drums.