Ximo Tebar Guitar & Scat Vocals. Orrin Evans Rhodes & E. Piano. Alex BlakeAcoustic Bass. Boris Kozlov Electric Bass. Donald Edwards Drums. Ester Andújar, Backing Vocals. Ramón Cardo, Soprano Sax. Santi Navalón,Keyboards. Stefan Braun, Cello. Kiko Berenguer, Tenor Sax. David Pastor, Trumpet. Produced by Ximo Tebar
Steps, by guitarist extraordinaire Ximo Tebar, may be his most deceptive yet. At first blush, it appears to channel the funky grooves of latter-day Miles Davis and Marcus Miller . But then, with complex melodic invention and accelerated rhythmic accentuation it soon becomes evident that this music embodies an ebullient sound of surprise. Raul d’Gama Rose, All About Jazz New York
VIDEOCLIP Cd Steps by Ximo Tebar. THE PINK PANTHER THEME (Comp. Henry Mancini. Arr. Ximo Tebar). New and Innovative Version. Make-Off Recording Session.
VIDEOCLIP: Ximo Tebar STEPS Funny SUPER-FUNK Recording Session with Orrin Evans, Boris Kozlov and Donald Edwards. Milenia Studios, Valencia, Nov. 2008
VIDEOCLIP: THE PINK PANTHER THEME by Henry Mancini, Arr. by Ximo Tebar. NEW AND INNOVATIVE VERSION. Live at Gran Teatro de Cordoba Festival de la Guitarra, July 2010
Sound of Surprise
Steps , by guitarist extraordinaire Ximo Tebar, may be his most deceptive yet. At first blush, it appears to channel the funky grooves of latter-day Miles Davis and Marcus Miller . But then, with complex melodic invention and accelerated rhythmic accentuation it soon becomes evident that this music embodies an ebullient sound of surprise. If anything, Tebar channels a star-bright sound with a touch of barely discernable, molten duende and the speed of John McLaughlin , in a sinewy, self-assured elegance that makes him one of a kind. And in this self-assuredness, the guitarist is able to turn his axe into an almost vocal instrument that embarks on its own aria-like sojourns when the need arises. To this extent he slips into a line that began with Charlie Christian and continued from Wes Montgomery to George Benson . His long loping melodic lines often mimic upward flight, while the darting arpeggios are sometimes lightening fast and at other times more languid and brooding.
The record strikes a mature note right at the very beginning. Henry Mancini’s theme from The Pink Panther (1963) is a bold move that comes from being self-assured. A standard such as this is rarely attempted on a record, unless the performing artist is one who’s cut his chops and paid his dues. Not only does Tebar open his session with a Mancini tune, but he does so at an even more laidback pace, virtually reinventing the time signature. He does no less with a complete reworking of John Coltrane ‘s “26-2” that becomes a slow, sensuous, and swinging bossa nova, as he scats in accompaniment. Wayne Shorter ‘s legendary “Nefertiti” is played bolero-like, but with a twisted, Latin flavor, and inhabits a constant, dreamlike state, with Orrin Evans ‘ Rhodes and Tebar’s guitar playing almost bashfully off each other. Herbie Hancock ‘s “Actual Proof” is deconstructed with a gleefully boppish time signature, the undulating tones of the Rhodes creating a memorable, svelte background for the guitar and other instruments to enter the fray. But it is Tebar’s compositions that create the biggest dent in the memory.
“Four On Six For Wes,” is descriptive of another quirky time signature that also captures Montgomery’s character as it ascends and descends the fret-board, pulling together a remarkable string of solos from Rhodes and guitar so that it appears the two instruments are creating a new relationship, like the drum and the bass once did with hip-hop. Tebar’s guitar is absolutely speech-like throughout his solo, which is quite refreshing. “Zap” is a quieter track by all accounts, while the title track is an unabashedly clever re-write of John Coltrane ‘s “Giant Steps.” It’s a perfect end to the session and is also a refreshingly bright musical recollection and doffing of the proverbial hat to Coltrane’s sheets-of-sound, as exemplified by the saxophone icon’s original. The Spanish Tebar has found many admirers in the US because he is so chameleon-like—a shining example of what Duke Ellington once called the jazz “Sound of Surprise.” Raul d’Gama Rose / All About Jazz New York, May 2009
Ximo Tebar’s guitar style is not typical in the contemporary electric jazz tradition of John McLaughlin , Pat Metheny , or John Scofield in that it displays little distinction in and of its own voicings.
What Tebar does own is a sense of teamwork and a greater theory of the melodic whole with his fellow bandmembers. Steps , his seventh album, is a very appropriate title for this recording in three discernible ways. There’s a progression of size in these combos, from quartet, quintet, sextet, septet, and octet.
Compositions from post-bop and the jazz fusion era are used, as well as modern contemporary originals. Though somewhat based in acoustic music, the electric Fender Rhodes piano played by Orrin Evans is very present throughout, while add-ons include a horn section, vocals, and a cello. Though Tebar’s guitar is at the focal point, he is not the main voice, but instead represents a straight shooting laser beam of conceptual originality that precludes personal individuality. What is unique is the clever way he interprets any given composition.
Alex Blake (longstanding member of Randy Weston ‘s bands) and Boris Koslov (the Mingus Big Band stalwart) switch their regular roles, with Blake on acoustic upright and Koslov on the electric bass guitar, while rock-solid drummer Donald Edwards plays his ever consistent role as a rhythmic taskmaster. Tebar “covers” five standards, all of them quite differently, with new ideas surrounding the original themes.
The theme from “Pink Panther” for instance incorporates a neat and clean modern approach merged with heavy contemporary funk without dismissing the slinky mood of the song. Wayne Shorter ‘s “Nefertiti” is adapted into a light, breezy samba, Herbie Hancock ‘s fusion classic “Actual Proof” is done very faithfully to the original in short form, and John Coltrane ‘s “26-2” is deviated beyond initial recognition, with Blake ‘s bass, Stefan Braun ‘s cello, wordless vocals from Ester Andujar , a funky tick-tock beat, and Tebar’s sneaky quick guitar lines. “Steps” is a supercharged extrapolation of Coltrane ‘s “Giant Steps” with harmonies from “Milestones” also tossed in, tricky and synapse fast. Clearly a tribute to Wes Montgomery , “Four on Six for Wes” has the guitarist exploiting seamless rhythm changes via tiny notes and hip, literate chords borrowed from the master with scatting included, while the Edwards penned “Essential Passion” is very much like “Actual Proof” in design, but more lithe, animated, and not over the top heavy.
This is a quite credible effort for Tebar and his groups, not as uneven as the lineups might suggest, sporting the diversity of a restless mind that refuses to stew in only one jazz genre, and does not take his own presence in a group setting so deadly serious. Review by Michael G. Nastos / All Music Guide / May 2009