Say "jazz" and you think "red hot cool."
Say "Jazz Guitar" and listen to Lou Volpe.
The guitar of this Bronx, New York, native has been a standard on the New York music scene. His resume of album guitar performance, touring stints, and music production, composition and arranging reads like a "who's who" of masters in the music entertainment industry. Volpe has toured and recorded with Bette Midler, Chaka Khan, Judy Collins, and has co-produced, composed, arranged and toured extensively with the legendary Herbie Mann.
Other performance and recording credits include work with Peggy Lee, Chaka Khan, Bo Diddley, David "Fathead" Newman, Chet Baker, Liza Minnelli, Roberta Flack, Phoebe Snow, The Manhattan Transfer, Herbie Hancock and others.
Lou has recently been chosen by YAMAHA GUITARS to be the "Clinic/performing Yamaha Artist" for the USA area! Check out the new videos here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4eITjYMjig&NR=1
A Nice CD REVIEW from Dick Metcalf at Rotcod Zzaj:
Lou Volpe – HEAR AND NOW: Though this is my first listen to Lou’s fantastic (& right on-time) guitar work, his pianist (Onaje Allan Gumbs) was most recently reviewed in issue # 71, so my ears were drawn to Lou’s CD right away. Lou is a session player at studios all around NYC, but he’s also released several CD’s as well. I wasn’t able to find (any) clips of the songs on this CD (not good), but I did watch several clips of Lou at work… check out the intensity with which Lou plays on “Barney’s Blues“. His “Coltrane of Thought“, though slightly different on the .mp3 version (which was a previous CD release), is the slickest jazz guitar piece I’ve heard in 2011!!! (& that says a LOT, ‘coz I’ve heard 100′s of them). I’d like to see (link-able) samples of the entire CD up somewhere on the web, but that’s only a minor crit… the bottom line is that Lou gets a (well deserved) MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from my ears for absolutely superb jazz guitar, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98. Get more information at http://louvolpejazz.com/
CD REVIEW from "All About Jazz" writer Nic Jones:
Lou Volpe is a guitarist who, in the mold of Georg Benson and Pat Martino has the groove down pat, but with the harmonic and melodic sensibilities to put a personal stamp on all his flights. He's worked with the likes of Chet Baker,Herbie Hancock and Roberta Flack, bringing all of that experience to Here and Now.
Comfort in his zone might imply predictability, but what Volpe does is timeless, with “Prince Charming” encapsulating what makes him special. There's an exuberance in his solo which doesn't spring purely from imposing technical command--though he has that--and there's little of the tried-and-trusted mellowness that can provoke thoughts of the same old same old.
Volpe also moves outside the customary jazz guitar colors, as he does on “Coltrane of Thought,” where he proves capable of stylistically covering prime John Coltrane territory, with all the urgency that master had at his command. Pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs doesn't go with the obvious McCoy Tyner option in his solo, though; instead, he plays with an agitated elegance that marks him out in his own right.
”Blue Boppa” has a fair measure of surface sheen to it, but this is a quartet that knows how to dig deep, and it comes easily in face of the leader's tumbling streams of notes. He's a deft string manipulator, too, and this makes for subtle variations in attack. Bassist Bob Cranshaw is another gentleman with a résumé that runs to paragraphs, and here his subtle underpinning of the whole performance.
”If You Should Leave” is a model of understated elegance, with the band thinking as one as it goes about the business of sustaining the mood. Volpe is at his most persuasively lyrical, not least because he knows how to pitch his ideas. A little double-tracking might detract from the spontaneity of the overall performance, but once it's gone, Volpe gets into his solo, which is full of ideas despite never venturing too far from the melody.
It all amounts to music that can either meld creatively into the background or reward close listening--which is often the way, when dealing with musicians who bring such substance to their work.
Lou's background has served him well, not only in giving him an impeccable technique but also allowing him to spread across the boundaries of jazz into the blues, rock and other genres. In fact the opening tracks remind me most of Pat Metheny - for the appealing sound that Lou gets out of the guitar, for his awareness of melody and because his pianist, Onaje Allan Gumbs, has the same sort of melodic instinct as Pat Metheny's long-term colleague, Lyle Mays.
All but one of the tunes was composed by Volpe. The odd one out is Softly As in a Morning Sunrise which can often sound hackneyed but here is freshened with a new bass vamp (borrowed from Wayne Shorter's Footprints?) and a performance in which the whole quartet plays as one. Lou has assembled some fine musicians for this group, and their shared expertise and jazz sensibility makes the music shine. Buddy Williams's drumming is particularly noteworthy as he supplies exemplary punctuations and breaks.
Prince Charming is a straightforward blues with splendid solos from guitar and piano. Coltrane of Thought starts by seeming far away from the style of John Coltrane, mingling hints of country music with bebop. However, the Coltrane connection becomes clear when Lou and Onaje improvise on the chords of Coltrane's Giant Steps. These amalgamations of different styles reveal the group's versatility.
One for Wes is a tranquil lilting waltz, not imitating Wes Montgomery but paying him tribute with a lovely tune. Comparisons with Pat Metheny surface in Live Wires, which is richly melodic as well as rhythmically stimulating. Lou points out that Blue Boppa is influenced by the George Shearing Quintet with its assertive block chords
If You Should Leave is a tender bossa nova with a melody that almost begs to have lyrics attached. The album ends with Love Dance, a brisk swinger where Volpe's guitar solo recalls Wes Montgomery in its relaxed ease.
I hadn't heard of Lou Volpe before, but I'll be very happy to hear a lot more of him in future.
Here is a recent review from Acoustic Music CD Review:
This one surprised me. I expected a more straight ahead session a la the Sheryl Bailey release (here), especially given the included standard (Softly as in a Morning Sunrise) and titular references (One for Wes, Coltrane of Thought), but Lou Volpe comes from the fusion side of the house and deftly blends such diverse influences as Steve Khan, Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs era), some DiMeola (!), and then a bunch Crusaders-era string benders (Carlton, Ritenour, Tropea, etc.) after a coupla quarts of caffeine. More, he gathered an impressive trio (Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and Buddy Williams on drums) that reinforces a straight-ahead contrast to the guitar's fluid, adventurous, constantly morphing voice and celerities.
The result is a combination that weds trad with 70s jazz-rock in a ceremony managing to make everything in this zesty fete of connubiality dance and bop. The title track shows it clearly, flitting between mannered sonorities and wild convolutions. Volpe is one of those cats who can turn on a dime and give you nine cents change before charging for the next hurdle, but, in Coltrane of Thought, Gumbs gives him a bit of concurrent what-fer as well, taking the keys on a romp, Volpe later re-taking the turf in an even more dexterous display as the comp fades out. As the few-seconds between-tracks silence intervenes, the listener is advised to take deep breaths, check his pulse, and get ready for the rest of the CD.
This guitarist is not only fleet of finger but nimble of mind. What might be a blur in a rock guitarist's hands becomes crystal clear in Lou's and precious few rockers ever go through so many tempo, stylistic, and modal changes in the space of a single cut. Hear and Now is a text in how quickly a six-stringer must adopt a dizzying array of possibilities in order to keep up with the ferment of his own evolving terrain. Still, what tickles my ribs is how this disc is going to have both stodgy traditionalists and futurist prog-heads sitting side by side, grooving to how well the materiality of both can harmonize and then play off one another. Not an easy feat, not at all.
by Mark S. Tucker
This one is our latest 5 star review from jazz critic site, Audiophile Audition:
Lou Volpe – Hear and Now – Jazz Guitar Records 070, 55:21 *****:
(Lou Volpe – guitar, producer; Onaje Allan Gumbs– piano; Bob Cranshaw – bass; Buddy Williams – drums)
Most people love an underdog, someone who gives 110 percent but somehow never gets success, attains achievements or finds deserved recognition. New York City guitarist Lou Volpe qualifies as an underdog. He is a veteran of the Big Apple studio scene, has supported numerous musicians from Herbie Mann to Peggy Lee and along the way Volpe has built a small but appreciative fan base. But he remains a secret to most jazz listeners. Volpe’s recordings are infrequent, so it’s a joy to catch him on his new mainstream jazz quartet outing, Hear and Now, containing nine Volpe originals and one jazz/pop standard.
Volpe plays with verve and swing, shifting from jazz overtones to blues licks, and includes a few pop contours. A guitarist could not ask for greater assistance than pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs – whose long credits could stretch to the moon and back; drummer Buddy Williams – who has an equally impressive résumé; and bassist Bob Cranshaw, who is best known for backing Sonny Rollins for five decades. Together these four artists cover all the bases.
The opener, the pop-tinted “Astral Island,” is probably Volpe’s most familiar composition, since it is the title track on Herbie Mann’s 1983 release, Astral Island, which featured Volpe in an auxiliary role. Not to mince words, this rendition is far superior to Mann’s tepid version. The rhythm section keeps the tune moving at a refreshing pace; Gumbs supplies a vamping solo; Volpe showcases his warm style which echoes Jim Hall and Wes Montgomery; and there is no one better than Cranshaw when it comes to bubbling bass lines.
Volpe directly reveals some of his influences on three appealing tunes. One cut particularly personifies Volpe’s enviable chops and composing skills. “Coltrane of Thought” features a rushing Volpe solo followed by a dynamic Gumbs piano foray, and Volpe enters again with a bluesy vamp which slips into a bop impression. When “Coltrane of Thought” fades near the five minute mark, it feels too soon. Volpe crafts a homage to another hero on the glowing ballad “One for Wes,” which has an emotive Volpe improvisation which evokes Wes Montgomery’s melodic accessibility and bluesy fluidity. Volpe heads into different directions on the sophisticated “Blue Boppa,” which employs block chord melodies akin to those popularized by George Shearing’s quintet. While Volpe solos with a blues voicing, he also utilizes colloquial movements which furnish unique harmonics.
Volpe has a way with romantic sentiments as well. During the upbeat blues undertaking “Prince Charming” Volpe throws in fret runs suggestive of Herb Ellis but Volpe adds enough of his own melodic elements that the number never seems like a pastiche. Especially noteworthy is the juxtaposition between Gumbs’ sprightly keyboard work and Volpe’s darker six-string sound. The foursome lay out a placid bossa nova design for “If You Should Leave,” a poignant ode to Volpe’s wife. The band sustains a gentle groove which stays shy of being too near to light jazz. The closing “Love Dance” also flirts with pop sensibilities, but Volpe’s flair for energized elegance and the manner in which he and Gumbs trade lines back and forth makes this track – and this album – a real winner. Good news for fans: Volpe is already working on his next project, a solo guitar record of Sinatra material.
1. Astral Island
2. Hear and Now
3. Prince Charming
4. Coltrane of Thought
5. One for Wes
6. Live Wires
7. Blue Boppa
8. Softly As in a Morning Sunrise
9. If You Should Leave
10. Love Dance
It occurred to me as I sat listening to Lou Volpe's solo effort Hear and Now (Jazz Guitar 070) that the reason the playing sounded so familiar to me was that Lou had been on so many sessions that I had internalized his sound without thinking of the WHO in the playing, that I had become intimately familiar with his playing without associating it with a name. Lou Volpe's played with everybody, and he's played with everybody else too. Here's a cat who has done session after session without really stepping out into the spotlight, more or less until now.
And I must say I find it gratifying to hear him in a setting where it's just him and a quartet, all of whom are there to play--one nice quartet, too. It's good to hear Onaje Allan Gumbs on piano, sounding great, and the two-man rhythm team of Bob Cranshaw on bass and Buddy Williams, drums, is rock-solid, as you would expect.
The fare is contemporary hard post-bop, modern mainstream and some funk numbers. The latter was the bread-and-butter of many a session over the years, of course, and one must expect it, especially since what Lou does is pure Lou. What Lou does with it is the point, and that is the interesting part.
On the whole this is one of those records that takes a middle-of-the-road approach to the music and so may appeal to a wider audience, yet it also showcases some very fine players. If you want to know why Lou has been so busy over the years, here is the musical reason--impeccably phrased bluesy-boppy runs with rhythmic vitality and beautiful comping, a sound that is a little earthier than the typical jazz guitar tone, and exceptional taste in note choice. That's Lou. Hear Lou now by checking out the disk.