When asked about his most important influences, the first two names he mentions are not other guitar players; Frank Sinatra heads the list and then Bill Evans. Perhaps this explains why John Basile is one of a select group of jazz instrumentalists who doesn't sound like everyone else.
Basile is also one of those rare players who still treasures songs. Not just the tunes, but the songs; musical and lyrical ideas combined in a way that creates a vibrant structure that invites interpretation. Like Paul Desmond, Lester Young and many of the jazz legends before him, John Basile is an instrumentalist who knows the lyrics to the songs he plays. And when a composition has no words, John plays it as if it does.
Basile's ability to 'sing' on the guitar is the result of a unique approach to the instrument. He uses a finger-style tchnique in which he plays the melody and at the same time accompanies himself with fragments of the harmony. The big five and six note chords that are normally strummed are relpaced with a choice two or three notes. The listener's ear (and brain) fill in the rest of the pitches. Most players, using a pick, strum a chord and then play a single line solo phrase followed by another chord and another solo phrase. Basile, using his fingers, plays both the solo line and the chords simultaneously. This style is similar to the right and left hands of a pianist. (guitarist George Van Eps, 1913-1998, was known to refer to his instrument as a 'lap piano') It is important to note that this is not something that Basile works out as part of an arrangement for any particular song. This is the language he speaks on the guitar. John has said that as a result of this vocabulary he has learned to edit himself and to have more clarity.
That clarity is evident in the eleven renditions presented on this recording. Basile does his 'instrumental singing' on three original compositions as well as a handful of standards. John's influences are ever-present; Like Bill Evans, his ideas and phrases flow beautifully one to the next. And in tribute to Sinatra he offers three of Frank's classics; It Was A Very Good Year, Baubles, Bangles, and Beads, and That Old Feeling.
Those listeners who await the arrival of John Basile's next recording project can rest assured that The Best Is Yet To Come.
March 2003, New York