CIMP Records, usually known for its uncompromising releases of "free/out" jazz and free-improvised music, has done the jazz world a favor by releasing this wonderfully inventive, straight-ahead album by Pennsylvania-based guitarist Cheshire. I have never heard him before this recording, and I'm way impressed (and I'm pretty cynical / jaded). His style is a refreshing change from most jazz guitarists, most of whom fall under the stylistic sway of Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall or Bill Frisell. His style is crisp and clear - he picks with the thoughtfulness of Ralph Towner and clarity of folk players like John Fahey, all the while keeping that magical quality of swing.
The set kicks off with a pensive yet propulsive version of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints", then a gentle, evocative original, "December Ballad", which deserves to become a standard. The recording quality is so fine, you'd think Cheshire and the delicate yet sturdy bass of Duval (of late, Cecil Taylor's bassist of choice) were in the room with you. The trio gets into more of an improv situation with "Variations on 'Nardis"' (you know, the tune Miles wrote but never recorded, covered much by the late Bill Evans). Here, these guys are listening to each other - it's not a just a rambling blow-out. The trio also covers Miles' "All Blues", Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge", and the too-oft-covered "Body & Soul". On the later, they're respectfully exploring the tune, taking it to a sublimely moody state. Oh yes, Rosen is such a sensitive and self-effacing drummer you almost don't notice he's there - almost. No drum-wank to be found here.
All in all, "Relax, Keep the Tension, Please" is as fine a companion you can buy in a store for the cold months ahead. A winner.