Chris Winters brings soft Impressions to Patou

Chicago guitarist Chris Winters will return to Rockford’s Café Patou this weekend to perform with his trio and create a relaxing and non-aggressive mood. His latest album, Impressions, was recorded in 2002 and its recent release probably gives a fairly accurate impression of what the performance will entail.

Joined by Mark Gratama and Kevin Johnson on drums (different tracks), Steve Howard on bass, and John Kattke on organ and piano, Impressions is just that: impressions of feelings and sentiments. 12 tracks of originals that hail Pat Matheny as an obvious influence, the album is a collection of rather sleepy and entrancing tunes. Repetition and emphasized themes with less focus on soloing and improvisation make the group easy to listen to. Winters playing style is well-controlled, and it’s obvious that he knows his guitar and understands his ability. Using mostly blues and jazz-standards as influences, his group also integrates aspects of slow samba and Latin grooves to create café music; that is, music oriented toward relaxing in a coffee bar by yourself.

Winters utilizes pedal effects that add a youthful quality to his music, but don’t overstep the boundaries of soft jazz. He never quite lets it “rip” as they say, but solidly maintains constant volume levels of soft and softer. The album cover shows Winters relaxing on a retro-style chair with his legs resting on a similarly dated table, and his guitar in his lap. The background is a stark white that lends a sterile feel to the picture, and fairly describes the music between the cover leaflets. In the photo, Winters is spacing out while his fingers seem to be sort of figuring out a chord that expresses what he’s thinking about. Detached yet emotional, Impressions is not swingin’. The rhythm section is tight, but emphasizes little and falls into the category of merely accent. Kattke’s organ work gives a shout out to ‘70s rock ‘n’ roll, when one-note vibes that pulsed and built up to louder one-note vibes seemed to be the “it” thing. However, his piano work is clear, precise and melodic. In fact, the whole group’s focus is on theme, redundantly reminding the listener of what the original melody was.

Having said my criticisms though, Winters’ compositions are anything but sloppy; a quality that seems to pervade contemporary jazz. Where many groups supplement being “out there” for controlled musicianship, Winters ignores the new conventions but avoids the old methods of bebop and swing, and comes up with a classic mix of ‘80s jazz and ‘60s folk. Café Patou is a fine establishment that needs no hard-rockin’, crazy swingin’ stuff to make its patrons happy, and will be a great setting for the show. The Chris Winters Trio will be the perfect after-dinner cocktail, unassuming and subtle.

The Chris Winters Trio will play Café Patou Friday, June 11 at 8 p.m. There is no cover as usual and for more information, call 227-4100. Tell Phillipe that The Rock River Times sent you.

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