The multi-talented Mae West once said that “personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is.” West, of course, thrived in a different era, worked in different formats, and was more than likely addressing another artistic discipline entirely with that specific statement. But those remarks still apply here. In fact, everything in there—minus the orchestra pit and footlights—is really dead-on.
Guitarist Amando Monaco’s Glitter is the kind of recording that hits the sweet spot for lovers of straight ahead jazz who appreciate a good amount of artistic character and playfulness in their music. These songs swing, simmer, and smile, projecting warmth and joy while showcasing Monaco’s no-nonsense playing. If anybody out there still believes musicians can’t be serious and have fun at the same time, Glitter may very well cure them of that belief.
Monaco’s bandmates for this project—baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian, organist Gary Versace, and drummer Matt Wilson—are a truly simpatico set, equally comfortable paving a zany and crooked path or walking a straight line. There’s nothing this crew isn’t good at. Looking for a ballad to bring a tear to the eye? Check out this quartet’s take on “Theme For Ernie,” with Sevian delivering some of the most heart-warming bari work you’re likely to hear today. Want something a little more left-of-center instead? Give “Mimosa Blues” and/or “Gremlin From The Kremlin” a try. Versace’s puckish wit is painted all over both numbers. Craving something exciting or a pure groove tune instead? This foursome has you covered with the up swing of “Dry Clean Only” and the boogaloo-buoyed “The Mean Reds.” Monaco offers something for almost everybody with this playlist.
There’s a lot to appreciate in these nine tracks—Wilson’s sterling support and repartee, Versace’s wide-ranging vocabulary, and Sevian’s flexibility and near-telepathic connection to the leader all certainly register—but Monaco’s guitar work is at the very top of the list. Her clean-toned approach, directness, and concision—qualities that may seem antithetical to the concept of establishing one’s own voice—actually help her to stand out, both in this mix and in the grand scheme of the jazz guitar world. It’s downright refreshing to hear somebody really focusing on putting over melody and delivering a satisfying solo chorus or two of fully comprehensible ideas. All that glitters may not be gold, but this album and its creator certainly are.