Absolutely Dreaming (Self Produced)
Released November 29, 2019
Jazz FM 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2019
Absolutely Dreaming is the latest release from Toronto jazz guitarist Ted Quinlan. Quinlan is a veteran of the Canadian jazz scene who combines a deeply rooted background in the tradition with an adventurous spirit and an eclectic point of view. He is joined by longtime musical cohorts pianist Brian Dickinson, bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Ted Warren who bring a wealth of experience and a shared affinity for exploring new territory.
The album’s nine original compositions exemplify the range of expression to be found in contemporary jazz. Many of the songs are inspired by Quinlan’s love of travel. Cheticamp is named for the beautiful Cape Breton town. Babylon captures the spirit of a Long Island seaside community that became a regular destination during driving trips from New York City. La Bionda comes from the name of a Berlin restaurant that served as a refuge during a powerful summer thunderstorm.
Melody and groove propel the tracks and provide a basis for the bands’ prodigious improvisational skills. While the concept of the “tune” still reigns supreme, the forms are challenging and unpredictable and lead the band to surprising places.
Quinlan’s guitar, the group’s distinctive lead voice, draws from a variety of sounds, all of which have been crafted to the needs of the particular tunes. From the warm timbres of Building 8 and Twilight Sky to the edgier tones of Not What It Seems and X Marks The Spot, this record is sure to intrigue fans of modern jazz guitar playing.
The title of the record, Absolutely Dreaming, alludes to the creative interplay one finds between the far reaches of the artistic imagination and the discipline and precision required to venture out toward its fringes.
1. Cheticamp (Ted Quinlan) 07:06
2. Not What It Seems (Ted Quinlan) 07:42
3. Building 8 (Ted Quinlan) 06:45
4. X Marks the Spot (Ted Quinlan) 06:19
5. Babylon (Ted Quinlan) 07:17
6. Black Prince (Ted Quinlan) 07:20
7. Twilight Sky (Ted Quinlan) 06:06
8. Absolutely Dreaming (Ted Quinlan) 06:42
9. La Bionda (Ted Quinlan) 06:55
Ted Quinlan: guitar
Brian Dickinson: piano
Kieran Overs; bass
Ted Warren: drums
Recorded May 1, 2018 & May 2, 2018, at Humber College Studio, Toronto, Canada
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Steve Bellamy
Assistant Engineer: Alan Han
Graphic Design: Yesim Tosuner
Producer: Ted Quinlan
Toronto-based guitarist Ted Quinlan is a Canadian institution on the instrument and constantly in high demand. Over the years he has performed as a sideman alongside famed musicians such as Chet Baker, Jimmy Smith or Dave Holland, while keeping busy as a leader. His guitar tone varies from clean and smooth to fuzzy and rough, channeling Wes Montgomery as much as Allan Holdsworth in careful adaptation to the respective composition. On Absolutely Dreaming Quinlan presents nine originals which account for over an hour of engaging melodies and instrumental storytelling. Like his tone, the music here is diverse but coherent.
One specific strength Quinlan demonstrates throughout the album is the elegance of driving a fine line between fusion and more acoustic-sounding bop. The opener “Cheticamp” is representative of this aspect; in tight interplay with the rhythm section, the guitar comfortably slurs along the contours of the progressions with a tone which is both round and heavy. The musicians share inviting gestures and are in perfect synchrony with each other. “X Marks the Spot” drives a similar agenda, though to a more edgy and rock-oriented vibe, while “Black Prince” is a true brother in sound to the opener.
When the pace slows, Quinlan’s tone widens and gains treble. Fewer notes grow to a bigger impact. “Not What it Seems” is a slow modal-jazz exercise with a mystic atmosphere to it and finds Quinlan and pianist Brian Dickinson trading precise and sparse solos. The ballad “Twilight Sky” is similarly intimate, though performed and composed in a more blues-based fashion. Quinlan and the band shine in a spacious and breezy setting, cutting back on the density and allowing the meticulous production to capture every note.
The acoustic guitar overdubs on the closer, “La Bionda,” have an odd effect sequenced in an album that otherwise completely refrains from creating the idea of more than four people being involved. The sweetness and laid-back nature however come as a welcome change and reveal another well-wrought song. The preceding title cut, “Absolutely Dreaming,” is an intricate composition, putting all of the band’s virtues on display and therefore in need of a lighter ambiance subsequently. With Absolutely Dreaming Quinlan has created a fine recording of mainstream jazz which demonstrates his dexterous capacities as a composer and musician while also keeping things catchy and easy to grasp.
Friedrich Kunzmann (All About Jazz)