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Earl Klugh — Handpicked

July 21, 2013

I (and I’m sure many other jazzers) have always defined renowed guitarist Earl Klugh as cool, smooth, and possessing a lot of style and class. This latest effort, Handpicked, which features the guitarist in solo and duet settings, places an exclamation point at the end of that description.

This album is one of covers and originals by the icon and features accompaniment on select tracks by ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuru and guitarists Vince Gill and Bill Frisell.

Klugh does more than justice to the standards that he’s handpicked and interpreted. Tunes like “Alfie,” “Blue Moon” (featuring a duet with Frisell),  The Eagles’ “Hotel California” (in a duet with Shimabukuru),  Thelonius Monk’s “’Round Midnight,” and The Everly Brothers’ “All I have to Do is Dream” (with vocalist/guitarist and friend Vince Gill) surely will have Klugh fans buzzing about his depth of insight and feel on these and other covers.

Then, there are the sharp originals like “In Six,” a clever piece written in 6/8 time (thus, its title), “Where the Wind Takes Me,” and “Morning Rain,” each wearing its distinct identity and Klugh quality.

The idea for Handpicked grew out of Klugh’s PBS Soundstage special, which included George Benson and Chet Atkins, and his Night of Guitars series which featured Russell Malone and Frisell.

There’s a very discernible folksy and country air added to the jazzy feel of this project. Choosing to do the album in the manner he chose sheds a great deal of light on the open-mindedness of Klugh.  In fact, he says of music, “My enjoyment  is searching out new things to play every day and ways to play them. There’s so much I want to do. If there were nothing else to learn and do, there’d be no reason to play.”  Such a refreshing approach.  Here’s hoping the ideas keep coming in abundance, Earl. – Ronald Jackson

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