Jazz guitarist Peckham pays tribute to some of his rock 'n' roll heroes...
Peter Marsh 2004
There aren't many jazz guitarists around who'd namecheck Paul Kossoff, Billy Gibbons or (gulp) Ritchie Blackmore as influences, but Rick Peckham's not your average jazz guitarist by a long chalk. Though he's a new name to me, his CV includes work with Dave Liebman, Mike Gibbs and John Medeski, but most suprising is the fact that he's been teaching guitar at Berklee's Jazz department for the best part of 20 years.
While Berklee's come to be associated with a highly technical approach to improvisation that's produced a seemingly endless stream of heavy metal bebop guitarists(Mike Stern's got a lot to answer for), Peckham's music is a joyful, boisterous union of rock, er,'primitivism' and seat-of-the-pants improv.
Peckham's raw, wiry Telecaster lines thrash and ooze their way round the tumbling dialogues of double bass and drums (Tony Scherr and Jim Black respectively). Unlike many of his peers Peckham doesn't go for oodles of techie effects. There's a smattering of delay, a touch of distortion, but that's pretty much it.
Importantly though, Peckham's understanding of rock guitar goes way beyond the application of the odd power chord or turning his amp up to 11. THough his technique's pretty impressive, it doesn't get in the way, and there's a feral energy to his chordal slashes and bluesy, tumbling runs that'd give Marc Ribot a run for his money. Add to that a slightly cerebral approach to soloing (not unlike the off-kilter logic of Bill Frisell at his best) and you've got a pretty potent combination.
Black is the ideal drummer for such a venture; his economical, crisp timekeeping can pack a hefty punch ("Gibbons") or the lightest swish ("Soporific"). Scherr is right behind him, unfazed by the testosterone on display. It's the double bass that gives the music its character; Scherr's agile touch and elastic, resonant toneadds a touch of warmth and space that stops the whole thing turning into power trio cliche.
After tributes to Billy Gibbons and Neil Young, the triohead back towards jazz country with their flying leap at the oblique pleasures of Monk's "Evidence". Black and Scherr play cat 'n' mouse with each other as Peckham whips out a thoughtful, restrained solo.If you're like me, you'll find yourself clapping at the end of it (but make sure no-one's around or they'll laugh at you). Very, very nice.