Picks and Pans Review: By Myself

updated 09/29/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/29/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Cal Collins

Benny Goodman, whose standards are among the most exacting in pop music, gave Collins a tryout in 1976—and hired the 47-year-old guitarist on the spot after one tune. Indiana-born, Collins had been living in Cincinnati and toiling in near anonymity as a studio musician. Three years with Goodman, however, led to a solo career, which reaches a pinnacle with this album. It's just Collins and his hollow-body jazz guitar—which is plenty. Recorded with microphones augmenting the guitar's electric pickup, the LP captures all the dimensions of Collins' sound: sonorous bass tones, bell-like highs, thick, immaculately voiced chords. His attack can be satiny or cracklingly sharp, and he's so dexterous he can plunge single-note runs into the middle of a chord, an effect that suggests lightning penetrating a boulder without splitting it. Most of the 12 tunes are standards (All the Things You Are, The Nearness of You, the title cut), and Collins likes to elongate a melody, then tantalizingly fill in the resulting spaces. Plucking and strumming up to tempo, he swings so strongly you don't miss the rhythm section. That's how he manages to alchemize Sunrise, Sunset, for instance, turning schmaltz into turbocharged lyricism. This is first-rate jazz.

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