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The Graham Album Review #2157

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Marc Ciprut: Blue Nouse

(White Label Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 6/7/2023)

There is certainly no shortage of guitar slingers in the music world – from guys in garage bands to rock icons to top studio musicians to jazz virtuosos, it’s not hard to find people with guitars making music. Over the years, a good number of albums have arisen from versatile studio players stepping up and leading their own groups on record. Many of them go for a kind of jazzy rock, and funk-influenced sound. This week we have a worthy example of that. It’s the new release by guitarist Marc Ciprut, called Blue House. Though the album’s style is familiar to guitar fans, it’s impressive in how well executed it is. It’s a pleasing example of rock, soul, funk, and blues in a mostly instrumental setting but with a pair of vocal tracks.

Marc Ciprut is a New York-based guitarist who has worked as a sideman or session musicians for the likes of Joss Stone, The Baja Men, and Kenwood Denard, along with jazz drummer Lenny White. Recently, Ciprut decided to concentrate on his own music, and this album is a result. He is joined by some notable folks on the fusion scene, including keyboard man Scott Kinsey, along with Etienne Lytle and Jon Cowhert alternating on keyboards. On bass is long-time Yellowjackets member Jimmy Haslip, and jazz bassist James Genus. The drummer throughout is Tommi Rautianen. And appearing as vocalist on two tracks is Steven Santoro.

Perhaps most notable about this album, compared to other studio-musician-does-solo album projects, is the fact that Ciprut plays some acoustic guitar, which when combined with his musically interesting compositions, makes for engaging listening. There’s mostly familiar sonic elements but with some more sophisticated compositional ingredients. The album has a distinctly retro sound with Memphis and Motown soul being a constant musical influence, but often with some bluesy textures, that perhaps was the inspiration for the album’s title Blue House.

Leading off it one of the bluesier tracks, Roll It Out which epitomizes Ciprut’s approach of taking familiar stylist elements and playing them really well. <<>>

Jack Be Nimble is another track that is based on classic ingredients, such as Memphis soul and giving it a fresh turn. <<>>

A track called Shaggy is given a strong funk beat but with Ciprut heard on acoustic guitar. <<>> But it turns into a kind of jam band piece around Ciprut’s guitar solo. <<>>

The first of the vocals, sung by Steven Santoro, is called Closer. It’s nicely done with a mix of Memphis soul and hints of Gospel influence. <<>>

The longest track on the album, though not by much, called Smooth which is a kind of moody, spacey blues. Overall, it comes across as nicely understated. <<>>

The other vocal track is Kiss You Again, a nice soulful, ballad. The band takes a kind of laid-back approach to keep the spotlight on vocalist Santoro. <<>>

The album ends with its only cover tune, Cissy Strut originally recorded by the New Orleans soul and funk group The Meters. From a compositional standpoint, the piece is not as substantial as Ciprut’s own original tunes, but still the band keeps it at a high level. <<>>

Blue House, the new release by guitarist Marc Ciprut, is an enjoyable mostly instrumental album that draws on familiar soul, blues and rock influence but with outstanding musicianship, while still sounding quite casual. The playing is classy, and the arrangements are tasteful, with the sound being very listenable and melodic. Ciprut is heard in several different styles and sounds, from rock shredding to a retro funk wah-wah sound.

Our grade for audio quality is close to an “A” with the overall sound being clean and warm, with the drums nice and punchy.

Guitarists abound, and a lot of studio players have made albums like the one from Marc Ciprut. But though it breaks no musical barriers, what it does, it does very well, and the result is a pleasing album that will stand up to repeated listenings.

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This page last updated June 11, 2023