CD REVIEW: Jon Wirtz - Tourist
By: Cyrus Rhodes
Artist: Jon Wirtz
Label: Jon Wirtz Music
Genre: Classic Jazz, Contemporary Piano, Classical
Sounds Like: Vince Guaraldi, Billy Cobham, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Chick Corea, Miles Davis
Technical Grade: 10/10
Weakness: Short sided catalogue, genera Identity Crisis
Colorado based Pianist Jon Wirtz just released his latest effort Tourist released in 2013. A personal note from his website: "After a significant amount of time, effort, creativity, writing, blood, sweat and tears, it’s finally finished." What more inside the CD there is a line that really stood out to me: “There is love in all places if you know where to look.”
The CD gently takes to flight with intoxicating intro piece “Slumber” that flows and ebbs its way through to melodic fruition. This first piece serves up impressive Piano exuberance against atypical Smooth Jazz ambience that gently leads you by the hand to Track 2 “Politico” a slamming follow up that serves up impressive piano driven melody against fluid bass line and infectious jazz guitar groove. Track 3 “Gratitude” keeps things moving in the soulful direction with its impressive melodic bass lines, meshed against methodical beat and hypnotic piano/organ playing. The CD makes a great first impression providing 3 solid musical experiences in a row. Musical textures reminiscent of the typical Gold Standard Jazz, but there is an undeniable Piano driven “full tilt” flair to this catalog. As the CD slowly unfolds you will notice most of the songs are quite dynamic reminiscent of free form piano jazz masters: Vince Guaraldi, Billy Cobham, Dave Brubeck Quartet, Chick Corea, Miles Davis. Each piece possesses crystal clear high end clarity, solid low end feel and chops that will make your head spin. The production delivers much in the way of Instrumentation as well as the bone crushing line up of players mentioned within the liner notes. Along the musical journey one will experience well-placed Jazz guitar, impressive piano chops, intoxicating horns, sizzling solo guitar, solid rhythm section and world class bass chops against amazing Piano accents and shuffling time signatures. Now turning our attention over to Wirtz. As far as his playing ability let me just go on record to say he brilliantly fuses all of the aforementioned via his Top Tiered piano playing style. This is a lot harder than it sounds and Wirtz pulls it off flawlessly. If that’s not a compliment I don’t know what is. He clearly knows how to fill the sonic space with amazing playing that flows across the ears like fine wine, but at times aggressive and tenacious, other times fluid and flowing. The music itself goes down smooth and fills the atmosphere with what I would describe as peaceful Jazz tranquility. All in all the CD has some truly impressive moments showcasing impressive playing, songwriting, rhythm, chops and a few dynamic grooves all rich in melody and flavor. From grooving “Camouflage for a "Sunny Day” to dynamic “Despite Appearances (all is Well) to jumping “Country” to heartfelt “Tourist” to my personal favorite “Watcing the World Wake up” to striking “In the Body” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 10 “Awakening” the perfect finale statement foe a CD of this caliber.
I’m not crazy about the Track 3 to be honest. Seems out of place to me within the confines of this musical catalogue, especially the vocal performance which is borderline Rap - a huge risk. There's nothing wrong with it persay - it just doesn't mesh well with the rest of the songs and kind of stands out like a sire thumb. Because of this track it's fair to say he CD suffers from a mild case of genre identity crisis. I also wish there were say 2-3 more tracks on the CD.
After spending some time with Jon Wirtz and company it's hard to find any solid weaknesses worth mentioning. Instead as the CD progressed I became more and more impressed with the production as a whole. What I like most about the CD is it refuses to try too hard. Tourist is an impressive musical production from start to finish. There’s not really a weak song on this entire catalog period! The songs are infectious and catchy. Each one possessing a unique personality, flair and signature groove. Last but not least - the playing, writing and production abilities of Jon Wirtz at the helm are to die for. Just hit play, sit back and see where this amazing journey takes your mind, body and spirit. There is love in all places if you know where to look.....indeed.