I discovered Alex Ehrsam recently while scouring YouTube for some lesser known talent to add to my Guitar Noize YouTube favourites. I say lesser known in comparison to the Joe Satriani’s and Steve Vai’s of this world I’m sure he is known in Jazz circles because he is an amazing guitar player. I recently contacted Alex and he was kind enough to send me a copy of his album, ‘djaz_dtox‘ available through guitar9.com. Alex sights Greg Howe and Scott Henderson as influences for this album and he recently entered the Greg Howe ‘Play for me’ contest, check out his entry here.
Alex picked up the guitar at the age of 15, his love of jazz music such as Coltrane and Miles Davis mixed with his rock shredding style have blended over the years into what he calls Progressive Fusion. He is capable of the Rock style of playing as demonstrated on the opening track of the album, ‘Scab Co-Worker‘ with overdriven guitar lead lines and pinch harmonics but also incredible fluidity with endless legato lines that meander around the jazz style progressions, nice bit of wah on this backing track too!
‘Snappy Response‘ is a similar ‘Greg Howe’ style track with overdriven guitars and legato playing at blistering speed although this track felt a bit more like an improvisation over a chord progression, personally I would have liked a bit more variation.
‘Out U Go‘ has a crazy opening riff that seems to defy time signatures, I think the drums are programmed if not the drummer certainly wouldn’t be thanking Alex having to learn something as complicated as this! Actually any decent drummer would probably relish the challenge. Once again in this track the Wah Wah comes out to show Alex’s funk side with some nice slap bass accompaniment. Oh and I said the opening riff was crazy but really the timing throughout is enough to make the most seasoned professional sweat!
‘Elevator Shaft‘ opens with a Saxaphone melody over what I would describe as a Drum & Bass beat with ethereal synth chord backing, but the track suddenly takes an entirely different direction half way through dropping the tempo to a half-time beat and overdriven guitars take over with a ballad like melody that occasionally deviates with lightning fast licks. The track then returns to the introductory them and original tempo with the guitars taking the Sax’s place.
‘Standard Procedure‘ is another rock fusion track with some bluesy pentatonic licks mixed in with more traditional jazz scales similar to the way Scott Henderson mixes it up. There is some fierce technical soloing in this track with tapping and arpeggios that are just plain scary!
‘Fix‘ has one of the more memorable melodic hooks on the album as the main riff, mind you I’m not talking a straight pentatonic riff, it seems to pass through about 3 keys in 1 bar! Maybe I’m exaggerating but its a very cool riff and one I intend to learn just to analyse exactly what is going on.
‘Cold Chill‘ is a really nice departure from the rock fusion which starts to take its toll on your ears after a while. The track opens with a solitary nylon string acoustic guitar and then a second guitar is introduced playing a melodic solo. It has a kind of spanish feel throughout and around the halfway switches to a more Gypsy Jazz feel mixed with modern harmony. It highlights how precise Alex’s playing is.
‘Decoy Unseen‘ is back to the Greg Howe-esque insane legato and speed picking that seems to cross the entire fretboard and back every bar, Alex’s knowledge of the fretboard is amazing. It has a funky feel with some modern jazz lines.
The final track ‘Malpractice‘ is the only track on the album to not feature soloing guitar all the way through and has a more relaxed fusion style with laid back drum beats, synth pads and Sax melody. Kind of cheesy to non Jazz fans but easy to listen to.
If you are not a Jazz fan you might find it hard to listen to all the way through but you might like the tracks individually so don’t rule it out. If you like Greg Howe, Prashant Aswani or Scott Henderson you will like Alex’s playing he is l’extraordinaire guitariste! If you want to try before you buy go to Alex’s website, or MySpace page to hear tracks from the album. Merci once again to Alex for sending me the CD.