The Phantom Tollbooth
Music and more from a Christian perspective
Slow down, and have your change ready
High Standards features guitar master Mike Pachelli in a small jazz-combo setting, playing familiar standards with style, finesse, and a hint of blues for added flavor…
10 tracks / 58:27
High Standards is not only the name of super-guitarist Mike Pachelli’s new album of instrumental jazz tunes – it’s also a description of Mike’s overall approach to music. No doubt, variations of that opening sentence will be the lead-off to many a review of this fine collection of mostly well-known jazz classics performed by the very capable trio of Pachelli on guitar, the legendary Tony Levin on bass, and Danny Gottlieb on drums. Aside from an assist by Keb’ Mo’ on “Yardbird Blues,” this intimate trio provides the better part of an hour of small-room jazz for you to enjoy as if you were sipping wine at your favorite French bistro (which, according to some reports, Mr. Pachelli himself might be doing before too long if the sale of his Tennessee home works out).
Pachelli’s playing swings with authority as he states, then ‘deconstructs’ the melodies of standards like “When You’re Smiling,” playing with the chords and alternately improvising passages, often with a bluesy take-out. The careful listener will have fun catching the various passages that Pachelli inserts into unexpected places: “Organ Grinder Blues” in “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Swingin’ on a Star” in “Yardbird Blues,” (my favorite) the Theme from Andy of Mayberry in “Whistle While You Work” – complete with whistling, of course!
The playing throughout swings but stays earthbound, showing respect for the compositions while also highlighting the chops of this talented trio. Pachelli’s guitar is featured, and rightly so, but we’re also treated with a few short, tasteful solos highlighting Gottlieb’s drumming, and Bass-master Levin’s playing is appropriately understated but always tasty.
High Standards highlights Mike Pachelli’s jazzier side and demonstrates why he’s on the short-list when players of Phil Keaggy’s caliber need a wing-man to take up the slack. In fact, Pachelli was called in to be Keaggy’s right-hand man on the recent tour featuring Phil, Tony Levin and Jerry Marrotta – Mike’s performance was impressive enough for Levin to say ‘yes’ when Pachelli proposed this project to the mighty bass legend. Pachelli performs some tasteful high-speed runs and decorates the body of these songs with chords and textures indicative of a player with respect for the classics and technique that more than meets the task at hand.
Whether you’re there to dig the playing or to enjoy the standards just for the great songs that they are, High Standards is well-worth your hour. The wine, cheese, and croissants are not included – but you might want to pick some up for the ambiance.
With lots of strong tunes, thoughtful content and consummate musicianship, as with all Morse’s work, this rock opera is a project well worth exploring.