PJ Rasmussen is a young guitarist/composer to keep your eyes and ears on. He has already composed the score, in a variety of styles, for a New York theater adaptation of Dostoevsky’s “The Gambler,” and written music for a new version of the 17th-century play “L’Illusion Comique,” transported from France to turn-of-the-20th-century Louisiana. So, it’s no surprise that his album, “Adventures In Flight,” is a tour de force in terms of style and musicianship.
It’s also a tuneful romp — a rarity in today’s highly intellectualized jazz world. This is largely a result of Rasmussen’s compositional style. His melodies and harmonies are complex and developed, but they’re also catchy. The chorus in “Baden Hill” is tough to get out of your head long after the album is over. The tune also inspires great solos from Nate Giroux on sax, Chris Pattishall on piano, and Rasmussen himself. Rasmussen is such a fluid and adventurous player, I’m surprised this is the first I’ve heard of him.
In fact, Rasmussen’s style is tough to pin down. The wonderfully stuttering guitar solo that opens “Sunday Driver” (over the album’s most challenging meter) gives way to a solo as nicely off-kilter as the tune’s melodic and harmonic structure. There’s also some particularly fine drumming on the cut by Steve Johns. Rasmussen’s ballad, “Are You The One,” features excellent solos from himself, bassist Adrian Moring, and trumpeter/flugelhorn player Danny Reyes.
While “Adventures In Flight” is tough to characterize, tunes like “Kickin’ The Can” lean toward the finest fusion of a few decades back. Rasmussen has absorbed styles from rock to classical and he pulls out whatever’s needed for the occasion.