Beyond Blues is a fresh and unpretentious effort from Minneapolis guitarist Paul Renz. The album suffers from the present state of insecurity and blandness in recording jazz. But it is worth listening to for the unrestrained performance of tenor player Andrew Schwandt. His tone is deeply rooted in the firm mid-low range of the instrument, yet he often journeys into the screaming, higher registers. Equipped with this aggressive and powerful sensibility, Schwandt rips through Renz originals, “Beyond Blues,” and “11th & LaSalle,” quite convincingly.
Renz’s tiny nuances are great, like a subtle bend in the melody of Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite.” His most important contribution is his composition and arrangement. The title track exemplifies his prowess in writing. He uses a repetitive and syncopated guitar and tenor melody then fades to a mutedsounding, half-time solo section. Tunes like “Beyond Blues,” and “Yardbird Suite,” both mix new melodies or rhythmic ideas.
This disc is mostly worth a listen because of its creativity. The jazz community should expect great things from places like Minneapolis and Chicago and the people who live there. These less-than-obvious musical hubs can develop without becoming huge, and generic, like New York. Renz and Schwandt make a record that is at times perfectly calculated, and at others extremely spontaneous. It is obvious that some thought went into the production of this work, making it enjoyably peculiar.