Craig Hlady is a skilled and versatile jazz guitarist who sounds equally at home in several styles. He has spent much of his career as a sideman, a record producer, and as a faculty member at Berklee College of Music, but he has also led his own groups in the Boston area.
On Twisted, Hlady performs nine of his originals in a quartet/quintet with pianist Dave Ramsay, bassist Oscar Stagnaro, drummer Alan Hall and, on two of the numbers, percussionist Ricardo Monzon. While the songs sometime utilize complex chord changes, Hlady easily sails over the music. His playing, which sometimes displays touches of Pat Metheny, Larry Carlton and electric blues guitarists, is mostly quite original and expressed in his own voice Ramsay is also a strong soloist while Stagnaro, Hall and Monzon keep the post-bop music grooving behind the lead voices.
After a tricky melody on the opening "It's A Pedal Still," Hlady takes a solo that starts quietly but soon becomes quite fiery. "Happy Blue Year" (a medium-tempo jazz waltz) and the straight ahead "Baby Blues" are the most straight ahead performances, inspiring some colorful improvisations. "Twisted," which is as eccentric as its title, has a quirky melody with a rockish section along with a heated piano solo. In contrast to the more passionate pieces, "Steppin' Out" sets an easy-listening groove and is quite soothing.
"When Fred Fled" is an inventive swinger while "Top Cat" is more relaxing but filled with subtle creativity. Hlady's guitar on the latter at one point has a country twang and elsewhere hints more at Gabor Szabo. The closer, "Four Way Strut," is the freest and most electric performance, featuring Hlady and his sidemen at their most explorative.
Twisted holds one's interest throughout and contains plenty of variety in moods and groove.It is an impressive effort from Craig Hlady which makes one look forward to his future projects.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian and author of 11 books including The Great Jazz Guita