By James Hale | Published January 2018
Closing in on 50, it appears that guitarist Tom Guarna’s days of flying just below the radar might be ending. Recording for an artist-run label with pianist Jon Cowherd and Wayne Shorter’s longtime rhythm section, Guarna has made an adjustment to his amplification that gives him an arresting tone. On previous recordings, his voice was round and clean—a nice vehicle for the boppish tunes he favored on his SteepleChase albums. For The Wishing Stones, Guarna has introduced some processing to his tone, giving him a liquid sound with extended sustain.
From the pensive opener, “Prelude,” to the burning “Modules,” Guarna’s original compositions o er a range of diverse harmonic approaches, and the arrangements bring out the best in his collaborators. On the loping “Song For Carabello,” Brian Blade’s accompaniment is a seamless cycle of understated patterns, propelling the piece forward while never leaving the deep background, save for occasional splash of cymbal. On “Unravel,” the drummer moves higher in the mix for what is at points an extended duet with the guitarist, but again his pulse never steals the spotlight. Bassist John Patitucci swings hard on “Modules” and steps into a more familiar role elsewhere, modulating his participation in a way that illustrates his close listening and complete engagement with the music.
Cowherd is also an ideal fit. On songs like the soaring “Hope,” the pianist strikes a balance between comping unobtrusively behind Guarna’s lead lines and providing simpatico solos. His fulsome, flowing work on the contemplative “Moment = Eternity” is just one of the highlights on this highly satisfying recording.
The Wishing Stones: Prelude; Song For Carabello; Surrender Song; Hope; Moment = Eternity; Unravel; Modules; The Wishing Stones; Beacon; Run Signal; Native Tongue. (74:02)
Personnel: Tom Guarna, guitar; Jon Cowherd, piano, Fender Rhodes; John Patitucci, bass; Brian Blade, drums.