Guitar whizzes are common in the world of jazz fusion. They offer a quick, high-energy musical fix for guitar freaks, but their showy licks, screaming melodic climaxes and speed for speed’s sake all tend to feel routine by the second listen.
The exception is Greg Howe. He has chops galore, but rather than furiously cramming in notes, he gives them room to breathe. On his 10th and latest CD, “Extraction,” Howe also sets his tricky finger-work to funky, complex rhythms. On the second song, “Tease,” it wouldn’t be strange if James Brown’s vocal came in anytime, and the pleasingly jerky riffs of “Crack It Way Open” and “Lucky 7” leave room to groove. There is plenty of guitar pyrotechnics, of course, but it’s wonderfully framed. Howe’s searing guitar solos are propelled by Bela Fleck’s bassman, Victor Wooten, and versatile jazz drummer Dennis Chambers. Their tight interplay and nuanced sensibility make them a fusion power trio that is much more than just a guitar lesson.
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