While many critics, academics and fans continue to debate about the demise of jazz, I continue to see signs to the contrary. One such example is 26 year old guitarist and composer, Alex Pinto. His debut album, "Inner State" illustrates the idea that, despite all the doom and gloom predictions regarding the future of jazz, there are still young people with creative voices yearning to be heard. The least that we can do is listen.
Pinto has an international background, which he draws upon in the writing of his compositions. His father is from Mangalore, India, while his mom is from Wisconsin. Although he was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, he had stops along the way in Warsaw and Moscow. He then attended McGill University in Montreal, and it was there Pinto says he began to not only get regular calls for gigs, but he also began to explore his cultural roots in India. He often visited his father's family in Karnataka, India.
Accompanying Pinto on "Inner State" (Pursuance Records) is Jon Armstrong on the tenor sax, Dave Tranchina on the bass, and Jaz Sawyer on the drums. All of them, including Pinto, are new musicians to me. I looked forward to hearing their musical synergy.
Right from the beginning, I was glad to see that all seven songs on the album were original Pinto compositions. There are no standards here. The album begins with "1 By 4", a syrupy, melodic tune that is hard to pinpoint stylistically. I wouldn't know what to call it, so I'll settle with it's good. The next track is "Chai Kinda Day". The Indian musical influence is apparent the moment the song begins. I'm not one for labels, or flowery verbiage but the song has a mystical, even ethereal quality to it. Light, yet grounded. I certainly enjoyed it, and it is a strong point for the album.
The rest of the cuts aren't slouches either. Other notable mentions are "Refresh" and "Outed". To most listeners, these two tracks will probably be considered the most "straight ahead" jazz on the album. “Two Pictures of Love” fits the bill as the prerequisite ballad and it’s a fine one at that.
What I like about Pinto's playing is that it's not heavy handed. It's sleek, smooth (no, not in the smooth jazz sense!) and refined. He and the other members of the quartet came together in unison, like a well oiled machine.
Along with established Indian musicians like Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa, I think it's great to see more jazz musicians of Indian heritage coming on the scene. It speaks volumes about the versatility and adaptability of jazz. As long as there is improvisation, jazz will survive. I enjoyed what Pinto, Armstrong, Tranchina and Sawyer had to say musically. I'm looking forward to hearing more. Pick up the album, it's a solid listen. “Inner State” is a strong first effort.
Atane Ofiaja is an audiophile and passionate jazz fan. He writes the majority of the music reviews for the website. In the past, he has written numerous articles and covered music events, concerts and festivals, primarily for J&R Electronics in New York City.
His blog is The Sophisticated Audiophile.