A Wayne Shorter tune done as a bossa nova? A John Coltrane piece tinged with a Latin rhythm? The Pink Panther theme slowed down and turned into a funky piece of contemporary jazz? Well, why not? In the hands of Spanish guitarist Ximo Tebar, all of this is possible.
It's all magical, too. It might sound like gimmickry, but Tebar and his band transform well-worn numbers so cleanly that their new arrangements sound like original intent. The core group includes Orrin Evans on Fender Rhodes, Donald Edwards on drums, Alex Blake on acoustic bass and Boris Kozlov on electic bass. Several guests show up here and there.
Tebar takes over the role of saxophonist Plas Johnson on Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther," altering the melody slightly and adding extra notes after each familiar phrase. Tebar's touch is light and airy on a Latin redo of Coltrane's "26-2" and a lilting bossa version of Shorter's "Nefertiti," yet he cranks out a blistering solo on a take of Herbie Hancok's greasy "Actual Proof."
Even Tebar's original compositions are derived from the classics. Though its title nods to Wes Montgomer, "Four on Six for Wes" seems based on Miles Davis' "All Blues." And "Steps" is quite obviously grounded in Coltrane's "Giant Steps"; Edwards even settles into a bebop rhythm, over which Tebar does some speedy and accurate picking. Most of Steps could be characterized as what critics noncommittally call "contemporary jazz," but with Tebar one would never go so far as to derisively label it "smooth." It's too sophisticated, too surprising, for that.
- Steve Greenlee --JazzTimes - Oct. 2009