In trying to grasp the multitude of creative and career transitions that have brought versatile guitarist to the equally simmering and slamming fusion of blues, rock and jazz magnificence that (literally!) drives his latest raw, infectious and fiery album Convertible, we have many fascinating points of entry. Though comes from an insanely musical family (violinists, pianists, classical singers, organists, horn players, guitarists) and always played music, he took a successful detour (and a PhD in mathematics education) to a successful career as a teacher and then writer of large scale math assessments.
His shift from that realm to a full-blown music career is impressive, but perhaps even more fascinating is that once he established himself as an artist, he made the stylistic choice to go from acoustic new age (with the enduring globally played songs “The Boy Who Loved Trucks” and “Princess”) into Jeff Beck and Steve Howe-fired fusion. When his excellent electric guitar album Point of Reference sort of fell to the wayside due to the pandemic, Durant actually considered revisiting those gentler melodic roots – but after a trip to California to attend to his two older granddaughters as a third was born, he discovered what he calls a “severe itch” to play electric again.
He can get back to the acoustic any old time, but for now, let’s be grateful he’s grooving and strutting so boisterously and funkily on so many of Convertible’s tracks with an ensemble of all-star sidemen that includes keyboardist Steve Hunt (who gave Durant some no-nonsense, tough love criticism to get his original demos up to speed), bassist Roscoe Beck, drummer and percussionist Tom Brechtlein and percussionist Ricardo Monzón.
From the raucous, high octane opening title track jam through the swaggering strut of “Cobblestones,” the scorching roadhouse romp “Stanky” and the sly, soulful punch of “Funky Princess” (featuring Grammy winning guitar great Eric Johnson), the crackling magic happens in those intoxicating, hard edged intersections between Durant’s dazzling, distorted guitarisma, Hunt’s irrepressible organ vibes and a groove that keeps popping. Those with fond memories of Durant’s softer, ultra-melodic side can enjoy chillin’ a bit with the sensual bluesy cool of “Marlow’s Mood” and the hypnotic atmospheric ballad “Alice.”