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  • Jonathan Widran

TONY ROMANO, Three Chord Monte

Any veteran musician who can boast a resume populated with the likes of Stanley Jordan, Randy Brecker, Michael Feinstein AND still active 80s teen pop icon Debbie Gibson should command our attention for that alone – but the ever-adventurous guitarist Tony Romano, a 20-year staple of the NYC jazz scene, has a lot of eclectic solo fire these days to keep everyone transfixed.

The provocative title of his latest album Three Chord Monte is a clever twist on 3-Card Monte, a card game played on the streets of New York that dupes unsuspecting passersby into losing their money betting on a card that keeps moving around. Though Romano lets us keep our money – and if we’re buying an actual CD, really gives us our dollars’ worth – it’s the perfect metaphor for his the ever-shifting rhythms and musical styles from track to track.

The bustle and boom filled, super-percussive opener “Cadillac Green” is pure joyous Afrobeat insanity inspired by the late drummer Tony Allen and featuring the dashing, darting dual sizzle of Romano and saxophonist Paul Carlon. The guitarist follows this with the sultry, 15-bar blues of “Rhumba-esque,” the silky, ethereal soul seduction “Winterland” (featuring Carlon’s smoky sax musings), the punchy staccato guitar/sax blasts and Bob Garcia’s boisterous drumming on the bluesy Afrobeat jam “Lay It Down” and the dreamy, laid back, hopeful minded waltz “Onward and Upward.” Romano revisits the hypnotic waltz vibe a bit later in the tracking, to snappy, hypnotic effect, on “Ratatat.”

Along the way, Romano and his quartet (which includes bassist Jennifer Vincent) also pay respectful homage to Bill Frisell with a moody, scale climbing “One for Bill.” Obviously aware he’s put the listeners on quite the wild, mood swinging roller coaster, he allows for some sweet and relaxing down time on the thoughtful “Reflection.”


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