Douglas J. Neel – Balance

Guitarist Doug Neel is in the middle of a very busy month of July. As he detailed here, Neel is leading the Dick’s Den Wednesday residency program this month, bringing four of his active projects to the cozy stage. One of these bands is the Doug Neel 5tet, whose slot in the schedule will be a special celebration. On Wednesday, July 19th at 9:30pm, the quintet will perform for a Release Party for Balance, Neel’s self-released debut recording as a bandleader. He will be joined on the bandstand by the same group that recorded the album: Matt Adams on tenor saxophone, Tony Bonardi on keyboards, Jeff Bass on bass, and Reggie Jackson on drums. Cover is $5 and CDs will be available for $10. Keep reading for more info and my thoughts on the album, a truly diverse selection of modern jazz and beyond tunes that lets the all-star ensemble shine.

Recorded at Capital University’s Convergent Media Center, produced by Neel, and engineered, mixed, and mastered by Chad Loughrige, this collection of Neel’s original compositions warmly embraces the listener from the first measures of opener “Choose Your Own Adventure,” which employs a funky core tune that starts with jagged edges but shifts to loose-limbed sunshine and boasts excellent solos, highlighted by Bonardi’s pearly romp on the keys. The soulful “Final Farewell” follows, opening with a heartfelt passage from Neel before he shares the spotlight with a yearning Adams, whose solo fits the groove perfectly and builds to a soaring climax. The breezy “Sammy” is well-suited for the summer months, with warm harmonies on the melody and Neel’s solo conjuring a perfect day on the beach. “Attaboy Blues” kickstarts the second half of the album with a hard-hitting bluesy strut, and the whole band shines in the limelight, including some earthy tones from Bass and an expedient drum kit workout by Jackson. The proceedings take a turn toward surf rock for “Pam Brever,” and Neel and Bonardi tweak their sounds perfectly to evoke cresting waves, with help from the ensemble. Bass leads off on album finale “Why/Why Not?,” setting a firm foundation for a rock groove that shifts on a dime between high-powered synthesizer shredding from Bonardi, a smoldering lead turn from Neel, and an appropriately face-melting finale.

Balance is highly recommended for fans of multi-faceted jazz guitar, and jazz fans looking for an ear-pleasing adventure. If you are unable to attend the release party, the album is also available in CD and digital formats from CD Baby, ITunes/Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube, Spotify, and can be heard on Pandora and other streaming services. Visit Neel’s website for more info and to sample the album.

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