The up-and-coming Michael Blum makes an impressive and vital debut with Initiation, and a persuasive case for straight-ahead guitar jazz. Forgetting for a moment that this precocious 20-year-old New Hampshire native has forged an accessible modern sound with a rooted connection to jazz masters like Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel and early George Benson, Blum embraces an intimacy with his material and dispatches a thoughtful set list with the surprising sureness of a more experienced musician.
With chops and good taste, the guitarist delivers a buttery version of “Stella By Starlight” and a bluesy, soulful read of Thad Jones’ lovely ballad “A Child Is Born,” two standards that his quartet refreshes through sparkling arrangements tailor-made for Blum’s clean, round tone. That comfortable sound is a Gibson L-5 Studio guitar, Blum’s axe of choice and the classic instrument played by his musical heroes.
Credit producer, bassist and Blum’s teacher, Jim Stinnett for sustaining a warm vibe that gives the band, including pianist Brad Smith and drummer Dom Moio plenty of opportunity to cook and swing on a diverse set of tunes (highlighted by the record’s best track, “Castle Rock.”) Enthusiastically recommended, this first album by the melodically gifted Blum will leave you swooning. (Amazon, iTunes) (10 tracks; 64 minutes)