Without Question

Pete McCann

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Pete McCann - guitar, composer, Steve Wilson - sax, Henry Hey - piano, Rhodes, Matt Pavolka - bass, Mark Ferber - drums


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Without Question - Chalked Up Reviews Bruce Boorman


In the landscape of jazz guitar, few figures cast as long a shadow as Eau Claire, Wisconsin-born guitarist Pete McCann. Over a career spanning more than three decades, McCann has distinguished himself as an integral part of the New York City jazz scene, collaborating with an impressive roster of fellow luminaries such as Kenny Wheeler, Dave Liebman, and the Manhattan Transfer, to name just a few.

His seventh album as a bandleader, Without Question, is a seminal work that encapsulates his musical odyssey, displaying the breadth of his electric and acoustic guitar mastery. McCann’s artistry is amplified by an ensemble of accomplished musicians: Steve Wilson on alto and soprano saxophone, Henry Hey on piano and Rhodes, Matt Pavolka on acoustic and electric bass, and Mark Ferber on drums. Together, they inject vitality into McCann’s compositions, making Without Question a standout release in modern jazz, especially in the jazz guitar world.

The album title, Without Question, signifies McCann’s bold declaration of self- identity. No longer content to be compared to other guitarists, he asserts his unique sonic identity throughout the album, each track revealing a distinct aspect of his musical uniqueness.

“I Can Remember,” a tribute to the late John Abercrombie, is a poignant homage that captures the melodic richness that defined Abercrombie’s work. McCann’s personal recollections of Abercrombie’s effortless melodic style and unique melodic/harmonic colors infuse the track with a sense of reverence and deep admiration.

McCann’s inventive spirit is evident in “Trifecta,” a complex composition built around a rhythmic motif of dotted 8th notes and a trisected harmony. McCann
displays his technical prowess and creativity during his solo, all while maintaining the theme of three key centers, lending the piece an exotic allure.

McCann’s connection to recent global events is palpable in tracks like “Lost City,” a haunting reflection on the eerie silence of New York City during the early days of the Covid-19 lockdown, and “Conspiracy Theory,” a politically charged commentary on the turbulent aftermath of a contentious presidential election. McCann’s edgy guitar tone infuses this funky selection with attitude, while his fusion-style solo melds the energy of rock with jazz sophistication.

Yet, the album is not solely introspective or social commentary. McCann also pays homage to his influences and peers. “Lovely Thing” is a tender tribute to the late saxophonist Lee Konitz, a testament to McCann’s deep respect and admiration for his legacy. The ensemble shines, skillfully blending bebop techniques with contemporary jazz colors, while McCann’s fluid bebop language and energetic chordal figures drive the piece.

“Blues For O.M.” showcases McCann’s innovative composition process. He employs Olivier Messiaen’s fourth mode of limited transposition within a jazz blues context, creating an engaging interplay of tension and resolution. The ensemble of Wilson, Hey, and McCann navigate the intricacies of the octatonic scale with bebop-style resolutions, striking a balance between a traditional blues feel and avant-garde explorations. McCann’s distortion-laden solo adds a layer of grit, and his use of note-bending techniques and double stops infuse the piece with additional expressiveness and harmonic depth. This composition encapsulates McCann’s creative vision and versatility, seamlessly merging elements of straight-ahead jazz, blues, bebop, and modern harmonic concepts.

Without Question is a narrative of McCann’s evolution as a guitarist and composer, a reflection of his journey, and his response to the world around him. The album is a definitive documentation of McCann’s identifiable skills as a guitarist, composer, and storyteller.

Recorded at Big Orange Sheep Studios, Without Question bears the signature of a studio designed for live jazz recordings. The studio, known for its classic atmosphere, natural light, and flexible room layout, occupies a prominent space in South Brooklyn and is equipped with an Argosy Console 90 Series desk, a 32-channel Soundcraft Ghost analog mixing console, and a range of outboard equipment racks. The studio is distinguished by its ability to cater to the specific demands of jazz ensemble recordings. Without Question, McCann’s fusion of technical mastery, emotional depth, and musical insight was captured beautifully during the recording process and is part of the whole sound of this beautiful album. It stands as a milestone in his long-evolving career—an album that is, without question, quintessentially Pete McCann




Pete McCann Without Question McCannic Music August 4, 2023

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Date Event Location
The Manhattan Transfer Miner Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Miner Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
The Manhattan Transfer Miner Auditorium, San Francisco, CA Miner Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
The Manhattan Transfer Haugh Performing Arts Center, Glendora, CA Haugh Performing Arts Center, Glendora, CA
The Manhattan Transfer Holland Theatre, Bellafontaine, OH Holland Theatre, Bellafontaine, OH
The Manhattan Transfer Amelia Island, FL Amelia Island, FL
Spin Cycle Con Alma, Pittsburgh, PA Con Alma, Pittsburgh, PA
Spin Cycle Merriman's Playhouse, South Bend, IN Merriman's Playhouse, South Bend, IN
Spin Cycle Art Center, Kalamazoo, MI Art Center, Kalamazoo, MI
Spin Cycle Arlyn's Brewery, Bowling Green, OH Arlyn's Brewery, Bowling Green, OH
Spin Cycle Deer Head Inn, Delaware Water Gap, PA Deer Head Inn, Delaware Water Gap, PA
Spin Cycle Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA
The Manhattan Transfer Sandy Springs, GA Sandy Springs, GA
The Manhattan Transfer Richardson, TX Richardson, TX
The Manhattan Transfer Greeley, CO Greeley, CO
 —  — The Manhattan Transfer - Fall Europe Tour Europe Europe
The Manhattan Transfer Flato Markham Theatre, Markham, ON Flato Markham Theatre, Markham, ON
The Manhattan Transfer St. Catherine's, ON St. Catherine's, ON
The Manhattan Transfer Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA
The Manhattan Transfer Palm Desert, CA Palm Desert, CA
The Manhattan Transfer + Diva Jazz Orchestra San Diego, CA San Diego, CA