If jazz is America’s soundtrack, periodically updated by tonal seismic shifts, then Corey Christiansen’s third release, Roll With It, is one such shift. Imagine a Grant Green-Jimmy Smith-Stanley Turrentine 1960s triumvirate (had one existed) buffed to an early 21st Century digital sheen, greasy easy on the pork fat, hard on the omega-3s and what you get is guitarist Corey Christiansen’s soul-jazz world view.
Debuting on Origin Records with Roll With It, Christiansen has the benefit of stablemate drummer Matt Jorgensen as well as Christiansen associates tenor saxophonist David Halliday and organist Pat Bianchi to fill this recording out. The results are as fresh as Johnny Walker Green Label just opened and as familiar as the last glass poured.
Christiansen sets the pace with the funk-infested, riff-propelling momentum of the opening “Your Way.” Christiansen and Halliday spar in the head, skating over Bianchi and Jorgensen’s nuclear groove. The viral hook of the head has a long half-life, banging those soul-jazz receptors so hard that the melody stays with the listener even in sleep.
Now that’s music successfully delivered.
Christiansen’s tone is slightly distorted and situated in a reverb center. This gives him a punchy, echoed sound, recalling the soundtracks of ’70s cop procedurals on television, with updated harmonic and melodic themes. While that may sound retro, the guitarist’s melodic approach is not. Christiansen spins complex melodies that never lose their inherent funk.
“Your Way” is just the introduction to a solid collection of Christiansen’s compositions, where the composer shows considerable chops in never allowing his creations to disintergrate into a monotonous 12-bar blues-fest. For sure, the blues is ever present on Roll With It. But it is transformed, funkified; Version 2.0, made with modified structures still orbiting the divine pentatonic.
Christiansen even pulls out that blues workhorse, the slide guitar, for a beautifully strange back-to-the-future romp on “Side Ways.” The disc closes with the superb “Half Pay,” where Christiansen’s blues chops shine in a most unusual, swinging and funky piece. Corey Christiansen has arrived with one of the most satisfying soul-jazz recordings of the year.