Guitarist Evan Montgomery brings energy and style to the stage

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After three years in the Twin Cities, I continue be impressed by the creativity of the area’s musicians and their willingness to share what inspires them.

The latest to do his duty is guitarist Evan Montgomery, who often provides a steady and creative hand for his musician friends.

Montgomery, whose artful style reflects the prevailing modern currents in jazz guitar and instrumental music, performs with this quintet tonight at Jazz Central in Minneapolis. Joining him on stage will be trumpeter Adam Meckler, bassist, Matt Peterson on bass, drummer Jay Epstein and guitarist Park Evans on guitar. Evans’ presence should make for a set full of stimulating guitar exchanges, the kind Al Dimeola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia inspired in masterful recordings a generation ago.

Here’s Montgomery on the show and his music, in his own words:

This particular band came together about two years ago initially, relatively soon after I moved to the Twin Cities. I had done a couple sessions with Matt Peterson and Jay Epstein doing trio stuff, and started thinking it might be cool to expand things out a bit more. I feel it’s easier to construct arrangements and new pieces when you have at least 3 or 4 voices to work with, at least for the kind of music I want to do. After that was when I brought in Park Evans and Adam Meckler.

I’ve known Adam for years and years now, and it’s gotten to the point where I feel absolutely comfortable playing with him in almost any setting. We play in Lulu’s Playground and his wife’s ensemble (the Jana Nyberg Group) together as well, and it helps to have that unspoken connection between two melodic players in a group.

Park has an extremely unique voice on the instrument, and I think that’s what ends up making our “dueling guitars” work out, is we both approach it from very different angles. I’ve actually got a piece worked out for this evening where we’re going to actually do an extended improv with just the two of us as an intro to a piece, and I’m REALLY excited about it. Park and I have never done anything like this together and it’s going to be completely new ground.

As for Jay and Matt, you could not ask for two better people to round out a rhythm section. Matt has been a fixture on the scene for years and we’ve become friends and musical cohorts in the Jana Nyberg Group, and Jay is pretty much a legend to me. We’ll be sitting in his basement rehearsing and he’ll just mention off-hand some gig he did in Tennessee or something with [guitarist] Barney Kessel or somebody else I used to listen to growing up. Jay (and Matt too) have such a depth of experience and talent to pull from, it makes it an absolute joy to play with them.

The repertoire for the evening is indeed pretty varied. We’re doing quite a few of my original pieces, but we’re throwing in a lot of my old favorites and some new covers as well. Specifically some Radiohead covers I became obsessed with in college and Bill Frisell, who I became obsessed with after college. Throw in a light sprinkling of Pat Metheny, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and a jazz standard or two, and I feel like the set we have for tonight represents a lot of what I’ve been digging into for the past couple years. Especially what I’ve been doing on my own outside of Lulu’s Playground.

I absolutely love the Dimeola, McLaughlin and De Lucia albums. I first heard those my freshman year in college and they totally blew me away. I like to think of Park and I working together more subtly than those guys did though. They were really about high energy and fast lines and dueling it out together, whereas Park and I are still high energy, but more like two lasers hitting each other. We create very focused musical goals and follow them exactly, but when we cross over each other’s paths the electrons go haywire.