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CD REVIEW: Paul Renz - In My Own Hands
By Dan Cohen - 12/22/2009 - 10:57 AM EST

Artist: Paul Renz
Album: In My Own Hands
Genre: Jazz
Sounds Like: john scofield, pat metheny
Technical Grade: 8/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: in my own hands, bluesing, first impressionism, take it home
CD Review: I was all ready to hate this album. It starts off very quietly. Oh here we go, I thought. More self-indulgent jazz twaddle. It'd been a tough day. I was driving my daughter to soccer practice and she was NOT pleased. But, conscious of my sworn duty as a Muse's Muse reviewer to uphold the very highest standards of professional practice, I insisted we wait. At least through the first song.

And then something wonderful happened. That thing we call music. True, the first tune starts off a little timidly, as if the musicians are feeling their way, but soon it blooms into a wide-ranging exploration of tones and textures. I'm not in love with the tone of his axe- it sounds a bit reedy & thin to me-- but guitarist/composer Paul Renz has a way with melody, a sure compositional sense, and does a curious effect with the volume pedal at one point in his solo. My daughter turned to me and said 'It sounds like a cartoon alien space movie'. Which I believe is exactly as Mr. Renz intended.

The title made sense to me-- it seems like a play on the idea of 'in my own words', and indeed the tunes and surrounding solos come off like genial, curious conversations, sprinkled with the occasional flight of fancy or odd, embarrassing remark. Through the soundscape On The Move to bluesy gems like Take It Home, I found relaxed, confident playing & songs with interesting, adventurous 'heads'. And Near or Far is just a flat out pretty ballad.

In addition to Mr. Renz on guitar, there's wonderful, adventurous playing throughout, especially by flautist Anders Bostrom and Brian Ziemniak on Hammond organ and piano. Eric Graham's bass playing is sly and funky. Drummer Nathan Fryett has a light touch somewhat reminiscent of Television's Billy Ficca. He's in the pocket on the light funk of Take It Home but second guessed on First Impressionism, a latin-tinged number that could use a stronger percussive drive.

Maybe it's not the album to impress the dj when the jam is really bumping. But if you're having a few friends over for dinner-- sautee a few onions. Add some salt, pepper, a pinch of oregano. Cut up a few tomatoes. Combine & stir over a low flame. Open a bottle of wine. Let it breathe. And put this record on. It's a real conversation starter.}

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