Fareed Haque Returns To His Jazz Roots on Out Of Nowhere

Jam band guitar guru’s debut on Charleston Square set for Aug. 20 release

Modern guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque is a six-string marvel whose uncommon versatility and open-mindedness reflect the eclecticism of the 21st century musician. An acclaimed player and accomplished composer who is steeped in both classical and jazz traditions, Haque has also explored world music in various configurations while becoming something of a guitar guru on the jam band scene with the late, lamented Garaj Mahal and exploring electronica with his band Math Games.

On his latest outing, Out of Nowhere, the multi-directional guitarist returns to his jazz roots on a collection of standards and originals. Joining Haque on his Charleston Square debut are veterans George Mraz on bass and Billy Hart on drums along with rising stars Rob Clearfield on piano, John Tate and Doug Weiss on bass, Corey Healey on drums and Salar Nader on tabla. Together they reinvent timeless pieces like John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” and Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good,” while also putting their stamp on Grant Green’s “Flood in Franklin Park,” the soothing Perry Como vehicle “Lollipops and Roses” and the title track, a Johnny Green-Edward Heyman tune introduced in 1931 by Bing Crosby but reconfigured 82 years later as an acoustic trio swinger with Haque, Mraz and Hart in highly interactive mode.

“I have recorded a lot of different music,” says the 50-year old guitarist who was raised in the Windy City by a Pakistani father and Chilean mother, “but at the end of the day, I’m still from Chicago and I grew up playing jazz, blues and R&B on the Chicago scene. And this new album reflects that.”

The influence of jazz guitar great Pat Martino is readily apparent on the opening track, “Waiting for Red,” a brooding modal number fueled by Healey’s loose swing groove and sparked by Clearfield’s McCoy-ish extrapolations on his piano solo. “I don’t make any secret about it,” says Haque of the Martino influence on that tune. “He is my inspiration in jazz guitar. And if I have a mission, it’s to blend the John McLaughlin world with the Pat Martino world. Every guitarist, every musician is a synthesis of the history. So if you want to understand Pat Martino, you gotta listen to Johnny Smith and Grant Green. And if you want to understand me, you have to definitely listen to John McLaughlin and Pat Martino.”

The upbeat, riff-oriented “Tex Mex” reveals more Martino influence in Haque’s playing while also showcasing a brilliant bass solo by Doug Weiss. “Flood in Franklin Square” is a funky boogaloo with Corey Healey laying it down old school. Haque’s gorgeous take on Duke’s “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good” features Clearfield on organ and has the guitarist taking his time on this darkly alluring interpretation. “I’m a huge Jim Hall fan,” says Haque,” and I was thinking about Jim when I did that ballad.”

Their inventive take on “Giant Steps,” a proving ground for all jazz musicians, is radically reharmonized and features Healey laying down a drum ‘n’ bass groove while Haque wails on his Moog guitar in his solo. Their interpretation of Joe Henderson’s oft-recorded “Inner Urge” opens in rubato fashion with the group exploring freely before settling into the familiar and tricky head. Haque unleashes some wicked sweep picking on this Henderson staple while Clearfield stretches on a burning piano solo. Says the leader, “It’s hard for piano players and guitar players to play together. In many cases you get a sort of middle of the road harmonic context because everybody is trying to stay out of everybody’s way. But there are notable exceptions. And Rob Clearfield is one. He is a master at interacting harmonically and we really worked out a nice balance between guitar and piano on this tune because we’re interacting rather than trying to get out of each other’s way.”

Haque switches from electric to acoustic guitar on a subdued, swinging take on “Out of Nowhere,” with Hart on brushes and Mraz laying down the deep-toned fundamental on bass. The collection closes on an introspective note with “Lollipops and Roses,” a waltz-time trio ballad with Mraz and Hart that carries sentimental value for Haque. “My parents had a lot of great music around the house and one was an old Perry Como record called By Request. It was great, if you like that kind of singing. You have to be in the right mood. If it’s Christmas Eve with a fire going in the fireplace and you put on that record, it’s the perfect mood. It’s a beautiful closing tune and George plays so nice on it.”

Haque says that with the 2012 passing of Chicago jazz icon Von Freeman, there’s been a hole in straight ahead jazz scene in Chicago. That’s a void he hopes to fill with Out of Nowhere. “I just want to play the music that I grew up on,” he says. “So it seemed like now was the time to go back to the roots. I think it’s important for the tradition to not be conservative, to still look outside the tradition but to still have the roots in swing. You’ve gotta have that. I don’t wanna use Duke’s old phrase, but you know what I mean.”

In Haque’s case, it does mean a thing ‘cause it does have that swing. And he swings in typically audacious fashion on Out of Nowhere, his auspicious debut on Charleston Square.

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