Guitarist/Composer, Bill Banfield’s new CD, Spring Forward( innova/Jazz Urbane), emerges as a project focused on composition, melodies, live performing and a cross boundary aesthetic. The new jazz recording encompasses 5 bands: guitar trio with upright and electric basses, acoustic and electric quartet and double band with the Banfield ensemble and the St. Paul-based Zeitgeist new music ensemble. This is a recording collective of several tastes and approaches. Mostly a live recording, it was recorded in an artists’ studio with an audience. This project satisfies a wide call from many jazz listening audiences.
Banfield’s “suite” is an important experiment in American music on several levels…form, architecture, poetic, well conceived, thought provoking prose, sense of immediency… (The Free Blues Suite) is uniquely steeped in American folklore. The musicians communicate with a single purpose and intense commitment to every song: a contemporary view of Blues expression.
- Delfeayo Marsalis
“…comfortable and persuasive in habiting such expansive terrains, Bill Banfield has the musical wingspan and is confident in both concert hall and jam session, at home and ease whether committing his inspiration to manuscript or expressing it in the moment…Banfield is also a guitar player who understands the power of his instrument to create improvisational heat and lyrical glow, and a bandleader who presents his partners with music that can be felt together. …Banfield’s perspective on jazz allows for stretching and grooving…Much like a Cubist portrait, his work provides multiple perspectives and reveals highlights and shadows, without disrupting the integrity of the overall form.
- Bob Blumenthal
A Detroit jazzbo, this guitar slinger has as much civil rights jazz on his DNA as he does Earl Klugh. With a bit of an AACM vibe in the laminar flow underpinning this set, Banfield and his crew want to include rather than exclude but they want to do some teaching and horizon expanding as well. A low key kind of exciting release that those looking to lean to the left of smooth jazz without getting hit over the head will enjoy.
- Chris Spector, Midwest Record Review
Bill Banfield is a master guitarist!
- Peter Kuller, Radio Adelaide
Some artists will insist that they have a broad, diverse range of influences when in fact, their range of influences is quite limited. That doesn't necessarily mean that their work isn't worthwhile - only that they aren't as adventurous and far-reaching as they would like to think they are. When Bill Banfield points out that his range of influences is far-reaching, he speaks the truth; one hears a strong George Benson/Wes Montgomery influence on Spring Forward, and yet, Banfield's guitar playing also brings to mind players like John Scofield and Bill Frisell. This is a hard bop/post-bop album that occasionally moves into mildly avant-garde territory; Spring Forward is not easy to pin down stylistically although everything on this 2009 release is jazz-oriented in some respect. Banfield gets into an appealing post-bop groove on "Free Me" (a Banfield original) and John Coltrane's "Equinox" and puts his hard bop talents to work on Montgomery's "The Thumb," but things became more left-of-center on "Free Us" - which is easily the disc's most avant-garde offering and is totally unrelated to the abovementioned "Free Me." Banfield's "Free Us" isn't an exercise in atonal chaos, and it isn't nearly extreme as, say, the scorching free jazz that Coltrane offered during the last few years of his life. Nonetheless, the tune demonstrates that Banfield has no problem embracing the abstract and the cerebral when he is in the mood for inside/outside playing. His eclecticism never sounds forced or unnatural; he comes across as an improviser who genuinely appreciates a variety of jazz, and that outlook yields likable results on Spring Forward.
When Bill Banfield points out that his range of influences is far-reaching, he speaks the truth; one hears a strong George Benson/Wes Montgomery influence on SPRING FORWARD, and yet, Banfield's guitar playing also brings to mind players like John Scofield and Bill Frisell. This is a hard bop/post-bop album that occasionally moves into mildly avant-garde territory. Banfield gets into an appealing post-bop groove on "Free Me" (a Banfield original) and John Coltrane's "Equinox" and puts his hard bop talents to work on Montgomery's "The Thumb," but things became more left-of-center on "Free Us"--which is easily the disc's most avant-garde offering and is totally unrelated to the abovementioned "Free Me." The tune demonstrates that Banfield has no problem embracing the abstract and the cerebral when he is in the mood for inside/outside playing. Banfield's eclecticism never sounds forced or unnatural; he comes across as an improviser who genuinely appreciates a variety of jazz, and that outlook yields likable results here.
- LA Rhythms
....he combines quick-paced, mellow single line notes with Montgomery-like octave-orientated flourishes. Playing over an infectious rhythm, Banfield employs the St. Paul based group Zeitgeist and creates a pleasing and texturally rich banquet of sounds. There is no demonstration of blinding technique— instead his playing is a blues-infused flow of ideas. There is a pleasant organic feel to his sound especially when paired with Zeitgeist’s vibes, xylophone and soprano saxophone. Banfield has created a hybrid that can be enjoyed by a more general audience without disappointing his more demanding listeners.
- Ralph A. Miriello, Jazztimes
Intelligent and accessible music. Good interaction from the musicians assembled.
- Eamonn Lenihan, RTE Lyric FM
A fine set of performances. Bill and his group really work well together. Banfield is one of the finest jazz guitarists working today.
- Mike Reis, WDPS Dayton Ohio
Liner notes proclaim Bill's guitar playing to be a lot like Wes Montgomery's - that's not an easy claim to live up to, but in this case, he definitely pulls it off with seeming ease. All original & very tasty jazz that spans the full range... mellow & soulful to near-improvisational, his music will inspire your spirit to look at the things that are around you in a new light - a good one, & hopeful throughout!
.....if you can't chill to this one, you're untouchable, without doubt. Personally, I have no doubt you will be hearing a LOT more from Mr. Banfield & his mates in the near future. I give this a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating...
- Dick Metcalf, Improvijazznation Nation
Guitarist Bill Banfield's music will satisfy fusion, bebop and contemporary jazz lovers alike. He opens on the cool side with the first few tunes before transitioning to more straight-ahead sound on "Free Me", "The Thumb" and "Equinox". We can hear the influence of George Benson, Wes Montgomery, John Scofield and Earl Klugh. More importantly we hear a new voice on the jazz scene in Banfield. He is writing, arranging, and producing jazz that has a wide appeal. He is a man with a lot of potential who is already making a splash with Spring Forward.
- D. Oscar Groomes, O's Place Jazz Newsletter
They are so in sync it's almost a little creepy, but in a good way. Banfield is truly a mind and instrumentalist to be reckoned with.
- Thomas R. Erdmann, Jazzreview
Bill Banfield's, Spring Forward covers a lot of ground. The various sets of liner notes inside name check Earl Klugh, Wes Montgomery, and Eric Dolphy which is indicative of the CD's breadth from smooth Jazz to Free improvisation. The majority of the CD is actually an extended work by leader Banfield called "The Free Blues Suite," mostly played with a group called Zeitgeist consisting of the last four players listed above. This goes from the slick Smooth Jazz on "Spring Forward" to spitfire Hard Bop on "Free Me," curling and twisting solo guitar on "Follow The Melody," quiet classical clarinet, vibes, and guitar work on "Free You" and finally a Jazz-rock freakout on "Free Us," with wriggling clarinet, clacking percussion out of Frank Zappa and Banfield going for broke with wild, lyrical guitar attacks.
The other pieces on the CD compliment the wide range of the suite. "Absolom" and "Crystal Clear" are more mellow Jazz-funk and Montgomery's "The Thumb" is more wicked Hard Bop. Best of all is an amazing version of John Coltrane's "Equinox" played by Banfield in the heavy-chorded Montgomery style over an undulating conga groove, a treatment that really puts that classic tune in a new light. The first couple of tracks are hard going but as the music gets looser and wilder you really appreciate what Bill Banfield is trying to do on this CD.
- Jerome Wilson, Cadence Magazine