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Ken Navarro – The Test of Time

Feb. 17, 2012

Here is contemporary jazz guitarist Ken Navarro like I’ve never before heard him. On his latest endeavor, The Test of Time, Navarro is the lone performer, playing all of the parts on one guitar simultaneously as he covers some really cool classic pieces. No overdubs at all.

His impressive playing at times has a classical feel, at other times a flamenco slant, even though he’s doing no flamenco tunes here, and at other times a simply powerful and spirited show of depth and innovativeness. His fiery strumming, his use of harmonics, and his clean runs and chords are all truly something to behold.

As a guitar aficionado and lifelong student of the instrument, I found this work most compelling to say the least. Adding to his creative approach here is his unique interpretation of the tunes, which include the late John Lennon’s “Imagine,” “Little Martha”  penned by the late Duane Allman (of The Allman Brothers fame), The Police’s “Message in a Bottle,” A Beatles trifecta with “Eight Days A Week/Ticket to Ride/Day Tripper,” and Santana’s “Europa,” among other timeless tunes.

Whoever said-or has even thought—that smooth jazz is either dead or unimaginative should really get a good earful of what our artists do to always inspire, intrigue, and entice listeners to the genre. It is work like Navarro’s on this album (and his other more “conventional” projects, as well) that keeps the fire in smooth jazz lit and very bright because of that very imagination and creativity. No, this isn’t the smooth jazz we hear everyday on whatever media we have chosen to patronize. It’s different and refreshing. It’s what contemporary jazz is all about…an all-encompassing umbrella of delightful styles and sounds and directions. A big thanks to Navarro for bringing his contribution under that umbrella. It is because of such an effort that contemporary jazz will continue to bear up well under the test of time. – Ronald Jackson