String Fever

Jazz guitar ace Paul Renz has spent much of his career in the classroom, earning degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music and Berklee College of Music, and now teaching at MacPhail Center for the Arts in Minneapolis. His hard-hitting CD “Dish It Up” includes frisky bebop, old-school fusion and, best of all, a 25-minute magnum opus, “Latin in Deed,” recalling the glory days of San Francisco’s Fillmore West, when jazz combos invaded the original jam-band scene.
With: Ruston Reynolds (tenor sax), John Iden (bass) and Greg Schutte (drums)
When: 8 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Dakota Bar & Grill, Bandana Square, St. Paul

-Tom Surowicz, Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 2001

“Dish It Up” Gabwalk Records 0101

Playing well-honored compositions does not necessarily mean there cannot be a novel spin to an album. On “Dish It Up,” guitarist Renz proves that with a vibrant spin around such well known pieces as Charlie Parker’s “Donna Lee” and the movie composition “Secret Love.” He also plays four original compositions, one of which splices in Coltrane’s “Impressions” while displaying a fast, technically sophisticated and artistically satisfying style. Keeping pace with Renz is bassist Iden and drummer Schutte, who have to scurry to match his vigor. Tenor saxophonist Reynolds makes it a quartet on three selections. He interacts in unison with Renz on the theme statements and becomes an additional foil to set Renz off and running on his typically long improvised excursions. Reynolds’ improvising touches on the funky side, ranging far afield but having an earthy, barnyard sound.

The class of the album is the 24-minute “Latin in Deed/Impressions.” It has changing tempo and plenty of opportunities for Renz and Reynolds to open wide. Renz gets into some exciting improvising while the rhythm section keeps a steady and provocative beat. Although Renz does some quoting, (“Norwegian Wood” and “Billy Boy” are obvious), his runs are mostly energetic exercises of freely flying guitar spikes. Reynolds is in a mellower mood on this track and turns in soulful and rolling improvisations on the bouncing theme. Iden and Schutte also enjoy their moment in the sun on this piece that ends with a rousing version of the Coltrane classic. Renz is a challenging guitarist who keeps the pot boiling throughout this set. It is a fine example of open-ended guitar trio music with a tenor punch.

-Frank Rubolino, Cadence Magazine, October 2001

Bright Moments, The Best in Jazz
Paul Renz, Dish It Up (Gabwalk Records)

This is the second self-produced CD by Minneapolis-based guitarist/bassist/composer Renz, a Berklee and New England Conservatory of Music grad who teaches at MacPhail Center for the Arts and the West Bank School of Music. There’s nothing academic about the music here, it’s a stylistic collage that includes four originals and a smokin’ cover of the Charlie Parker chops-buster “Donna Lee.” Renz’ knack for eschewing jazz cliches in favor of unexpected musical detours gives him a certain kinship with another modern iconoclast, guitarist/composer Bill Frisell. Renz and his accompanists, bassist John Iden, drummer Greg Schutte and tenor saxman Ruston Reynolds, apparently spent plenty of time jamming on the charts before committing them to vinyl.

-Dan Emerson, Pulse Magazine, August 2001