It's been a long time since this reviewer can remember when he last heard "smart jazz." The type of music that makes you sit up, adjust your head and really listen carefully to what's being played and how the musicians are interacting. So subtle and idiosyncratic, yet so fresh and charming, Los Angeles guitarist Dave Askren's Some Other Things is full of oddly attractive music and musicians who are obviously not in it for a check. The final result can only be described as dictionarily defined - hip and cool.
Askren's resume would make even the most hardened of professionals salivate. He's performed with jazz artists Bobby Shew, Antonio Hart, Delfeayo Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, Gary Foster, Pete Christlieb, Mike Vax and Jimmy Branly, as well as pop artists Marilyn McCoo, Latoya Jackson, Little Anthony, The Coasters, The Platters and The Drifters, among others.
The guitarist's years of being a complete musician pay off in spades throughout the CD. Two of Askren's originals are excellent examples of what listeners are favored with on all nine cuts, only one of them being a non-Askren original. On both "Some Other Things" and "More Or Less," the jagged and distinctive melodic lines cut their own path through the harmonic firmament so completely it's hard to imagine the tunes minus a single note or extended harmonic upper partial. The solos from Askren and saxophonist Jeff Benedict are witty, thoughtful, yet so of the moment you can feel the tension build and release as motivic constructs fight to coalesce into beautiful statements.
Every tune is a gem on this disc, but don't waste your time on it unless you are willing to give yourself over to the music absolutely and with no reservation.