By Stefan Wood
Tom Chang is a guitarist from Toronto, Canada, whose debut album, "Tongue and Groove," is a result of many years of hard work in the Los Angeles and New York music scenes, playing with musicians as varied as Rudresh Mahanthappa to Sade. Inspired by classic rock guitarists, as well as contemporary jazz guitarists, Chang has incorporated his influences with Indian and classical music, focusing on melody and texture to create his own sound.
The opening track, "Spinal Tap/Goes to 11," is an homage to the fabled mock heavy metal band, with an explosive mixture of guitar, bass and drums, giving way to horns in a metal meets Jazz Messengers three minute opus. "Djangolongo" is another tribute, this time to Django Reinhardt, and Chang reflects his playing, though not exactly his sound, as he plays on top of Gerald Cleaver's part bossa part techno styled drumming, with Greg Ward and Jason Rigby providing Indian inspired phrasings with their saxophones. "Variations for Piano Op 27" refers to Anton Webern's piece, also Opus 27, by deconstructing it and reforming it as a dense cluster of horns and guitar, alto stretching, tenor staccato, guitar doing both, with bass and drums undulating like choppy waters. "Tongue and Groove" is a playful track, starting off with a short bit of vocal dynamics, imitating a tabla, then the band following, percussion continuing to emphasize the tabla beat, with Chris Lightcap providing an extensive bass solo as contrast.
As different and dynamic as these tracks are, unfortunately the rest of the album has a sameness to it that makes it difficult to distinguish one track from another. "Sleepwalker," "Scatterbrain," "Entangled Heart," are such examples, with similar phrasings, and melodies. This mutes what is a promising album. "Tongue and Groove" is a nice effort by a long time musician who is deserving of having the spotlight, leading his own group with a unique blend of influences and sounds.