Graham Dechter – Takin’ It There

Los Angeles-based guitarist Graham Dechter plays with a veritable all-star team of jazz musicians on Takin’ It There, his latest record. His Right on Time proved the then-23-year-old as “one of jazz’s most gifted young guitarists.” Three years later, his second release on Capri cements this cold, hard fact.

Dechter’s organization includes pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. If those names scratch an itch, they should. Forming the so-called “engine” of the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra, this group has been swinging with the best of them. Clayton and Hamilton are not only best friends, they’ve had the honour of working with the likes of Diana Krall and helping shape her impressive career.

But it’s the synthesis of the Orchestra that really pumps the gears for Takin’ It There, a record Dechter describes as “a push and pull between two contrasting ideas.” The first idea pertains to the external search for meaning, while the second is the conclusion that everything one needs to know about oneself inevitably comes from within.

“This CD is really about the process of balancing those two things,” says Dechter. “…a process that is somewhat similar to what I deal with on a day-to-day basis as a musician: trying to find a way to stay true to my roots and influences while at the same time striving to say something new and original.”

That critical balance seems to infect a lot of jazz records with an unfair either/or choice, but Dechter and Co. have it both ways – and then some – all over the place on this album.

Consider the opening “Road Song.” The Wes Montgomery tune is presented in stellar fashion, brimming with coolness and getting all the players involved right on the ground floor. Dechter’s playing is fluid and lyrical, but it also punches the lights out. He stylishly creates something new while paying homage to Montgomery as a player and as a man, taking roads less travelled with poise.

The title track comes from the remarkable Josh Nelson, a close pal of Dechter’s and one hell of a pianist in his own right. Here the keys lie with Hendelman, who beautifully lays the foundation for some delectable guitar grooves. Listening to Dechter walk the lines and carry the strings to unforeseen places is a special experience indeed.

That doesn’t even touch Hamilton’s work on the hard bop “Hocus Pocus” or Dechter’s original works, like the savoury “Together & Apart.”

Takin’ It There certainly takes it there, that’s for sure, but it also runs whatever it is past there and into the stratosphere. It floats around somewhere in jazz guitar heaven, owning its own star with confidence, youth and passion. Contemporary and yet unafraid of tradition, Dechter’s latest is another hit.

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