Eric McGarry, As I Am, As You Were Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Eric McGarry’s debut album, As I Am, As You Were, is a striking first album that shows his multifaceted skills as a guitarist, composer, and bandleader. As I Am, As You Were, released on January 27, 2023, represents a culmination of McGarry’s extensive musical education and influences and a profound exploration of themes like change, authenticity, and personal reflection.
The album opens with “Migration,” a track based on contemporary jazz with its intricate groove and engaging interplay between McGarry’s guitar and Mervin Toussaint’s saxophone. McGarry’s approach to the guitar solo is noteworthy; his warm distortion and sustained tone create a canvas for his active, yet melodically rich lines. This track also showcases the exceptional synergy within the quintet, particularly in the way Micah Graves’ Fender Rhodes piano interlocks with Steven Perry’s drumming and Pete Dennis’ upright bass. Ross Bellenoit’s lap steel guitar adds an ethereal dimension to the piece, enhancing the overall texture and mood.
“Inhale, Exhale” is an excellent example of McGarry’s gift for writing a modern jazz composition. The track’s call-and-response structure between the theme and rhythm section underpins a suspenseful and evolving musical journey. Here, McGarry’s soloing guitar tone is again warmly distorted, employing a delay effect contributing to a smooth, legato sound. Graves’ piano accompaniment is particularly noteworthy for its dynamic interaction with McGarry’s guitar, alternating between supportive and leading roles. Toussaint’s alto saxophone solo is a highlight, introducing a new energy level and dynamic range. The ensemble adeptly adapts to Toussaint’s intensity, underscoring the emotional impact of his solo.
McGarry’s compositions on this album reflect his deep engagement with various sources of inspiration, including the natural world, personal relationships, and introspective musings on identity and authenticity. Each piece feels like a chapter in a larger narrative, with the quintet’s collaborative spirit and individual musical voices contributing to a cohesive and expressive whole. The album’s production, led by Ross Bellenoit, further accentuates the ensemble’s strengths, ensuring that each instrument is given space to breathe and resonate.
In conclusion, As I Am, As You Were is not merely an impressive debut; it’s a compelling statement from an artist who can clearly articulate complex emotions and ideas through his music. Eric McGarry and his quintet have crafted an album that speaks volumes about their collective talent and vision, making it a significant addition to the contemporary jazz landscape.