Jeanfrancois Prins is a versatile and consistently creative jazz guitarist. His quiet sound and harmonically advanced playing recalls Jim Hall a bit while his Belgium heritage finds him hinting at times at Django Reinhardt. While he has contributed to the music of many other jazz greats (including his wife singer Judy Niemack), El Gaucho gives him an opportunity to be in the spotlight.
Prins is joined on this project by bassist Joris Teppe, drummer Victor Lewis and, on four of the 11 selections, tenor-saxophonist Rich Perry. The trio/quartet performs six of Prins’ originals, three songs by Wayne Shorter (including “El Gaucho” which is played as part of a medley with Prins’ “Noche En Las Pampas”), Victor Lewis’ Ï Wanted To Say,” “Spring Is Here” and a version of “I’ll Be Seeing You” that has Prins taking a surprising and effective vocal.
The guitarist takes his time in his playing, lets the melodies breathe, and builds his solos logically from the themes. Some of the songs (particularly some of the ones with the cool-toned Perry) are heated but the emphasis is on slower tempos, thoughtful improvisations and subtle creativity. An interesting touch is how “Spring Is Here” is sandwiched by quotes from Stravinsky’s “The Rite Of Spring.”
El Gaucho is full of exquisite music that deserves close listenings.