There’s something special about the fusion of musical genres that’s woven flawlessly into the interior of enriched lyrical content that’s passionately brewed, stewed and stirred by lush arrangements and improvised solos, an that’s exactly what you get when you listen too composer, guitarist Neal Alger. “Here and Now, There and Before” by chance this is the first project that I’ve had the honor to hear by Alger, he reminds me somewhat of when I first stumble upon guitarist John Scofield and Mike Stern early in their perspective careers. Neal’s voice might not be as defined or on the edge as the aforementioned artists. However, with his chosen instrument in hand he speaks with clarity and understanding of what he’s offering musically therefore fulfilling his purpose as a guitarist and composer. 


The Players: Michael Arnopol ~ bass (trks- 2, 4, 5, & 9), Tom Hipskind ~ drums & percussion, Jim Gailloreto ~ tenor & soprano saxophones, Ben Lewis ~ Rhodes & acoustic piano, Larry Kohut ~ bass (trks: 1, 3, 6, 7 & 8), Neal Alger ~ guitar and producer© 2002 Zeneal Music


The title track Here and Now, There and Before” is the beginning of a truly tasteful musical journey ahead. Neal’s guitar licks lures you in immediately with warm and compelling runs, as his sideman soon accompanied him leaving just enough space for invigorating solos. Oh it’s so nice to hear Ben Lewis work the Rhodes piano as he does so eloquently (throughout), at a moments notice the arrival of the rest of the gang engage in the vitality of inspiring musical conversation.


“Autumn’s Mystery” showcases the affluent skill set of these talented musicians. Neal opens with a Benson like interlude setting the stage for the inclusion of bassist Michael Arnopol to join in with acoustic styling. Now, sax-man Jim Gailloreto rises to the occasion an takes command of his horn soloing effortlessly with the spirit and compassion; it appears to me that his sounds illustrates that he’s been classically trained which offers added value. Alger continues to excel with his propelling guitar solos assisted by drummer Tom Hipskind craftsmanship as a percussionist.


Neal’s chops are definitely sweet; he pulls you right into the mix of things on the jazzy side with “Catcher In The Rye”. The beauty of the playing here orchestrates the importance of their relationship as musicians is vital; the interactivity that takes place on this track in particular is amazing. Surprising, as it might appear the next track “Magic Man”(written by Ann & Nancy Wilson) compliments the previous piece as his comrades takes” Magic Man” to a place I’m sure that it’s never been before artistically. 


Alger resumes his course as a leader with the lyrical “Jenny”. As the fusion of styles unfolds into the destination of oneness Neal’s passion for jazz occupies a very important position on the path of his creativity, at the top.


Neal dug deep into someone’s music collection and discovered “Back Road” by the legendary jazz trumpeter Kenny Dorham. This is further expresses Alger’s passion for jazz in itself speaks volumes while encircled by his esteem sideman makes this a worthwhile listen. At just the right altitude uninterrupted jazz continues to be first and foremost on “Here and Now”.  Next up is a track titled “Cancion Para Alguien” falls into the 7th spot. Alger’s understanding of jazz composition is enthralling to say the least, with each aspiring note he accomplishes his mission as a player that simply loves jazz.  


With “Cult of Personality”(written by V. Reid, C. Glover, W. Calhoun & M. Skillings) Alger delves into a fusion mode as the crew joins in adapting easily with unwavering cohesion. These cats can burn, no doubt! In the 9th spot and final selection Alger eases his way in fluently into the classic “Mr. PC” by the one and only John Coltrane, he represents nicely by thoroughly testing familiar waters of jazz guitar greats Wes Montgomery and Grant Green with efficiency. 


“Here and Now, There and Before” by guitarist composer Neal Alger is a rare jewel without disguise in today’s jazz climate, his music is intimate, thought provoking, accessible and a surely a welcomed first listen with more to come in the future. Neal Alger anchored by the virtuosity of his gifted sideman deliver the goods on “Here and Now, There and Before” from start to the finish these guys came to play need I say more?



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