reviews for Luminous cycles


James Emery: acoustic guitar, composer
Marty Ehrlich: alto and soprano saxes, flute, clarinet
Chris Speed: tenor sax and clarinet
   Drew Gress: bass  Gerry Hemingway: drums, glockenspiel 
Kevin Norton: marimba, vibes, tympani, bowed tam-tam

Between The Lines Records (btl 015)

Down Beat: "Best CDs of 2001"
Jazz Times: "2001 Critic's Picks" "Best CDs of 2001"
Erie, PA Times-News: "Year's Ten Best Jazz CDs" 5-stars
Cuadernos de Jazz: 5-stars "Top ten CDs of 2001"


"Throughout his long standing affiliation with the time-honored String Trio of New York, guitarist James Emery has righteously emerged as one of the finest modern jazz guitarists on the globe. However, Emery has also exhibited an exquisite compositional pen via a string of mighty impressive solo recordings on the ENJA label, while LUMINOUS CYCLES signifies his inaugural release for Frankfurt, Germany based Between The Lines. On pieces, such as the opener "Luminous Cycles", we are treated to interweaving textures comprised of micro-vignettes, burgeoning rhythms and lilting or at times, penetrating passages amid the musicians' altogether emotive interplay. Overall, this outing may represent James Emery's finest solo effort to date as the artist once again demonstrates his idiosyncratic approach to modern jazz composition. Easily one of the top picks of the year! Strongly recommended."

Cuadernos de Jazz (Spain): 5-stars
By Angel Gomez Aparicio

"James Emery is an acoustic guitarist with of pristine technique who, in his role as composer, makes use of all of the sounds and resources available to him. Emery made two disks for ENJA, the first of them the masterful Standing on a Whale Fishing for Minnows, announcing a demanding musician in his extraordinary combination of jazz tradition and academic composition. The power of his pieces stems from the combination of the clear lines of complex structures in which he skillfully manages the voices of his sextet with the hammering percussion of Kevin Norton and Gerry Hemingway. The way the sections give way to new sections, the always open possibilities within a controlled architecture and the freedom of the soloist are signs of first-tier music. 

The guitarist's sextet shows itself, in the eight pieces on the album, to be a precision instrument within a dance of divisions and regroupings of voices that give an ever-changing and taut feel to Emery's geometries. A careful and pondered listening to Luminous Circles reveals a powerful mind at work."

Signal to Noise
by John Chacona

β€œThe first thing one notices about this elegant session from the Cleveland-born guitarist is the liquid sonority of the sextet. With the leader's acoustic guitar, Kevin Norton's vibes and marimba and the twin clarinets of Marty Ehrlich and Chris Speed, the ensemble sound has the watery, shimmering quality of the mid-50s ensemble Michel Legrand used to frame Miles Davis. Emery has created an aquatic garden of sound on the title composition into which the rhythm team of bassist Drew Gress and Gerry Hemingway creep on cat's feet. From the first bars of their stealthy ostinato figure, you're immersed in a torpid Amazonian sound world reminiscent of Wayne Shorter's overlooked Moto Grosso Fieio, but Emery's is cooler, more seductive. Call it the "between the lines" sound. All eight compositions are by Emery and they are, by turns, slinky, surprising and always rhythmic. Gerry Hemingway always manages to find the right groove (and yes, there are grooves here) and is an exemplary accompanist. Ehrlich and Speed double liberally with the former in a lush romantic mood on the aptly titled "Beyond Words" (from a Debussy quote) and the latter raw and galvanic on "Across the Water", a cut that also features a Klezmeric funhouse of a clarinet solo from Ehrlich. If I haven't said much about Emery, maybe it's because his excellence is so self-effacing. His playing is so apt and finely-gauged that it becomes part of the organic whole on this exquisite and yes, luminous, CD."

Downbeat (four stars)
by James Hale

"-alongside John McLaughlin- Emery is one of the masters of improvising on the acoustic guitar. Luminous Cycles - performed by a first-rate ensemble - shows that he is also an inventive, complex composer. Pitting an acoustic guitar against two reeds and an expanded rhythm section takes nerve, but Emery's sound is full and vigorous, and he has the ability to weave his sextet's instruments so he never gets drowned in the mix. Crystalline studio sound helps, too. The title composition establishes the sonic territory. Kevin Norton creates a dark-hued bottom as he plays the bustling theme on marimba. Emery generates a stark contrast with a bright, supple guitar line, and the clarinets of Marty Ehrlich and Chris Speed fill in the middle. A secondary contrast is set up by countering the driving melody with an attractive, descending, seven-note sub-theme in a Spanish vein. Standing apart from other tunes are the achingly beautiful "Beyond Words", which highlights an alto solo by Ehrlich that carries echoes of Johnny Hodges at his romantic best, and the aptly named "Violet into the Blue", with the pairing of Ehrlich's soprano and Speed's clarinet, and a fleet, bluesy solo by Emery. Gruffer than chamber music, more nuanced than most guitar-driven jazz... too good to pass over."