“There was magic in the Savannah air, and although the ever-exacting Kleinhaut was initially resistant to the idea of putting together a CD from their improvisations, Lamb made a convincing case after he “clean(ed) things up” on the recordings and showed his buddy how good they really were….But the disc’s biggest draw is the way the musicians combine to create a duo identity.Sometimes, crazy/good things happen when people meet on vacation.” -Steve Feeney Portland Press Herald
The pair amazes with a super telepathic empathy… Jones Street documents two accomplished guitar players having an intimate conversation with not one word spoken. –C. Michael Bailey All About Jazz
Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation
“Kleinhaut takes all kind of chances, swinging hard along the way. His ability to explore and create in the moment is undeniable. What sets him apart is his determination to keep the music original while at the same time having fun.
Randy McElligott, jazzreview.com
” Kleinhaut favors a clean, fluid sound, sometimes firing off rapid runs or, at other times, holding notes and coaxing subtleties from the melodies he’s composed…you find yourself using words like ‘perfect’ and ‘sublime’ because that’s what you’re hearing.”
Paul Donnelly, ejazznews.com
“…a unique voice…a welcome and refreshing find indeed!”
Ernie Pugliese, JazzImprov Magazine
“…unapologetic, genre-destroying, unflinchingly original music. Kleinhaut’s music is a paradox in the respect that it is composed with a certain complexity that makes the music sound like it was created easily.”
C. Michael Bailey, allaboutjazz.com
“A first-rate improviser as well as an accomplished composer…Guitar aficionados will no doubt be impressed by the combination of finesse and fire exhibited on his debut project.”
Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes
“His eclectic compositions are well thought out and superbly executed…Mr. Kleinhaut is capable of light-speed virtuosity…but he never lets that virtuosity overshadow the music.”
Randall S. Closson, Just Jazz Guitar Magazine
Bennie Green, Face Magazine
“Kleinhaut plays to serve the possibilities of a song in the form of mood, movement and emotion-rather than to show off his chops, which happen to be considerable and technically flawless.”
Scott Sutherland, Portland Press Herald
“His (Kleinhaut’s) versatility as a composer comes through clearly, with each song making bold statements in its harmonic conception…his level of technical accomplishment is beyond what many strive for.”
Jonathon Babu, Northeast Performer
“There’s a balance of soft-toned melodies and instrumental daring, plus the gentle G-force of swing
Ted Drozdowski, Boston Phoenix
“Kleinhaut’s inventive accompaniment demonstrates both his impressive technique and harmonic sense.
Michael Laprarie, jazzreview.com
“… he has managed to keep the flame of music alive and release numerous CDs while juggling another career. This should be an inspiration to all guitarists working a 9 to 5 job that you can play and record jazz, and feed a family too!
Doc Dosco, Guitar News Weekly
“The combination of alto sax and guitar in a quartet can result in both balance and variety in solos and the overall colouring of the music. Their different voices complement and, to some extent, contrast. This is certainly the case on this cd. Kleinhaut favours a clean, fluid sound, sometimes firing off rapid runs or, at other times, holding notes and coaxing subtleties from the melodies he’s composed. ‘Long Look Back’ is aptly titled, redolent of retrospection, his guitar exploring the bitter-sweetness that usually accompanies nostalgia. Watson’s sax may explore a higher range but at times he reminded me of Joe Henderson’s work with John Schofield. He also contributes one of the most exhilarating solo moments at the start of ‘Four Lane Clover’, unfolding mercurial lines that spiral freely, recalling Dolphy, before the piece opens into a brisk workout featuring equally liquid guitar lines.
“There is one particular track when the two combine most successfully. ‘Field Of Greens’, has a slightly angular Monkish feel with alto and guitar nimbly negotiating the theme. There is one of several understated bass solos too from Jim Lyden. Kleinhaut’s playing is particularly elliptical, at one point riding weightless on the light strokes of drummer Les Harris Jr’s cymbal. They also show that they can re-invigorate some hard bop with the best of them on ‘Start It Up’ where the tempo rises a little. Kleinhaut and Watson are both at their best, with the former sounding fast and furious as he solos and slots in clipped chords beneath the sax. For me, the standout track is probably ‘Erikita’, since I love Kleinhaut’s gentle understatements at the start, followed by some taut bowed bass, or maybe just because it sounds like a standard; melodic, elegant and familiar. It’s just one of those pieces where everything is cohesive and you find yourself using words like ‘perfect’ and ‘sublime’ because that’s what you’re hearing. This whole cd is something lovely to return to.”
Paul Donnelly, ejazznews.com
“One of the most eloquent voices on the alto sax returns, and it is no small measure that Mark Kleinhaut was responsible for bringing Bobby Watson back on record. Kleinhaut wanted to write songs particularly for Watson, and again to his credit, he realized that any music would be the starting point for their dialogue. How right he was! Watson slips right in and, in consonance with the others, turns in a stimulating outing.
“It matters little what style the music is. In the diversity of the compositions lies the thread for the musicians to pick and come up with a fabric that is often enough splendid. The lilting flex of a Latin rhythm marks “Ferdinand and Isabelle” before Watson punctuates with whirling figures that loop around the melody, spurred by Harris and Lyden. Kleinhaut has a loquacious tone and here he lets it bounce and dance adding pliant chord work to the flavor.
“Ballad time is best witnessed on the warm intonation of Kleinhaut as he introduces “Erikita.” His unhurried pacing adds to the impact and Watson picks the skein and braids from the wellspring of inspired emotion. Making this all the more riveting is the textural contrast that is bought in by the arco of Lyden, the soft shaded drumming of Harris and the comping of Kleinhaut. The band goes on a happy, swinging romp “South of Mason.” Moving along like a well-oiled machine, this mid-tempo groover has enough panache to hook. As the final note falls and ebbs this album leaves behind a well woven musical tale.”
Jerry D’Souza, allaboutjazz.com
“An all-original CD, there’s plenty of room for Bobby Watson to stretch out. Mark Kleinhaut is no slouch himself; he is a great match for Watson. The first number, entitled “Ferdinand and Isabelle” is one of my favorites. Over a samba beat, the guitar and alto sax play the melody in unison, and it really makes me want to dance!”
Lucy Galliher, jazznow.com
“This is, without qualification, the best jazz CD I’ve heard (yet) in 2003! Mark plays guitar, & is the leader of the quartet. Watson’s alto work is a feature (as it should be – the guy is just amazing), but all 4 players are “in balance” at every note. There are lots of trade-offs for solos, all totally seamless! I must have listened through the album (at least) 10 times on the way back/forth to th’ day grind… made for some mighty pleasant rides. None of the players (Jim Lyden on bass & Les Harris on drums) are pushed to the background; they all contribute with verve & gusto. They’re able to sense each other’s movements, & never leave the listener dangling, whether on a slow bloozy number (track 2, “Long Look Back”) or a kicker (the opener, “Ferdinand and Isabelle”). Bobby’s sax is totally unique, able to evoke mental mem’ries of other players (Getz, f’r’instance) & yet tell the story his way! Most of th’ trax are fairly long (the shortest is 5:41), so there is lots of room for them to explore every nook & cranny of a composition… there are no “bad” tunes here, ev’ry one’s a winner! I just loved th’ call/response between Kleinhaut & Watson on cut 4, “South of Mason”, & th’ bass intro on cut 6, “Start It Up”, is as sweet & low as a player can get! If you don’t purchase another CD this year – get this one! It gets our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, as well as the “PICK” of 2003 for “best jazz quartet”!”
Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation
“Over the years many sax players have come and gone. One name stands out as being not only a survivor but an important contributor to jazz. His name is Bobby Watson. A Balance of Light features the Mark Kleinhaut Trio with Watson as special guest. Never one to rest on his laurels, Watson is a musician always pushing the envelope. Contributing new ideas, Watson’s influence on this session is undeniable. Opening with the upbeat Ferdinand and Isabelle, Watson’s verve and drive get the engine running so that Kleinhaut can respond in kind with spirit and conviction. Kleinhaut’s playing enriches the moment, complimenting Watson’s alto with tasty licks and runs.
“Take a trip “South Of Mason” starting off with a brilliant exchange of ideas between Watson and Kleinhaut. Easing into the groove, Watson carries the melody with fun and style. Maintaining a classic sound throughout, Watson’s ability to carry a melody line with such control is pure joy. Kleinhaut’s subtle strumming behind Lyden’s solo is refreshing.
“Start It Up” is a corker of a number. Lyden’s bass playing as usual sounds great. Flowing throughout, picking up the pace for Watson and Kleinhaut to trade ideas and share moments before Watson takes a few brief liberties. Kleinhaut’s swinging is fueled as well as influenced by Watson’s natural ability to inject some drive and flavor into the session.
“Always known for his solo excursions, Watson lights up Four Lane Clover with his relentless spirit and musicality. The trio joins in with a swinging feel as Watson dances around the notes with ease. Kleinhaut always tries to maintain a certain sound when it comes to the trio. Always striving for balance, the trio is well served by Watson’s contributions. Kleinhaut takes all kind of chances, swinging hard along the way.
“Summers” is an interesting piece in that the melody interjects punctuations while Watson weaves in and out. A bit of experimentation takes place in the trio while Watson’s soft alto rides a wave of sonic fluidity. Kleinhaut can be heard ever so sparsely. It’s a mural created from brief uncertainty, whirling excursions and flair. Chalk up another delight from Kleinhaut. More than ever, Kleinhaut takes a journey out of the mainstream into unchartered territory. While listening to his previous recordings, one thing is for sure. His ability to explore and create in the moment is undeniable. What sets him apart is his determination to keep the music original while at the same time having fun. Bobby Watson’s contributions are noteworthy, but more importantly what Kleinhaut was able to learn from Bobby and display throughout A Balance Of Light, shines a bright beacon on the future of this talented artist.”
Randy McElligott, jazzreview.com
“The disc grew out of an encounter at last year’s Key Maine Jazz Festival, when Kleinhaut’s trio was joined by alto sax veteran Bobby Watson for a set that I’m told was quite memorable. The guitarist brought Watson back to Maine last January for a recording session full of new Kleinhaut tunes, arranged to allow for lengthy improvisations by all. The results reveal a decided synergy between the composer’s thoughtful vision and Watson’s singular post-bop spirit.
“Start It Up” is an early favorite for me, with its resonant bass intro by Jim Lyden leading to a bubbly thematic statement from the quartet that may remind some of the kind of sound you’d find on a Dave Holland small group album. The leader takes the first solo and, with push from a very active Les Harris, Jr on drums, works through a rapid-fire solo given expressive character by some stretched and bent notes near the close. Watson then enters in an initially more reflective mode, as he musically contemplates the options offered by the harmonic currents within the piece. He nods to its roots in “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” while fashioning variations that are pure Watson, as they dance across the top of Lyden and Harris’ emphatic drive. “Erikita,” undoubtedly a dedication to album producer/engineer Erika Aberg, develops into a melancholy tango, with Watson providing the plaintive theme over Kleinhaut embellishments and Lyden’s bowed grounding of the piece in that mysterious, steamy place beyond words. “Field of Greens” develops a Monkish lope and is highlighted by a playful Watson solo that will impress anyone not already familiar with the Art Blakey alum’s unparalleled bop fluency.
“Nearly every piece on this disc has its own character and feel and reveals new facets with repeated listenings. Two minor quibbles: 1) the tune “Summers” seems to turn just a bit too abruptly from its pleasant folkish theme to a darker, collectively improvised middle section annd 2) It would have been nice to hear the group workout on at least one Watson tune. Overall, though, this is a remarkably sophisticated disc, with compositions that are consistently engaging and players, from near and far, who know how to make good jazz.”
S.D. Feeney, Face Magazine