Album Review of

Written by Robert Silverstein
March 24, 2024 - 6:04pm EDT
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One of the most prolific guitarists on the planet today, Jon Durant remains a musical enigma. On one hand, his ambient solo guitar albums are experimental to the max as is his work with Colin Edwin and Ukrainian singer Inna Kovtun, yet his penchant for bringing in subtle melodic structure is never far away.

For his 2024 album Momentarily, Jon again teams with bass player Edwin and percussionist Andi Pupato. Released on the artist’s own Alchemy imprint, the 6-track, 56-minute CD is highly charged ambient instrumental jazz filled with Durant’s trademark fretless guitar. As well, he also excels here on electric guitars, cloud guitar, synth guitar.

Colin Edwin’s upright bass and acoustic bass gives the album an earthy, spatial, New Age feel. Andi Pupato is a long time Durant collaborator and his percussion and drumming is a unique hybrid of hand drums, kick drum and cymbals and the effect is quite convincing.

Momentarily features a number of exemplary tracks to choose from. Fans of Durant’s many fine fusion and ambient albums will note a consistent thread between Momentarily and the album recorded with Colin Edwin in 2021, Mutual Isolation, although that latter album, released as a Burnt Belief album, tended more towards the grandiose and Momentarily sounds more steeped in a stark reality of experimental tension.

Momentarily will have you hitting the play button time after time. Musicologists often ascribe Jon Durant with making transcultural jazz, yet there’s also a rural, lonely sounding Americana tinge to his compositions and ensemble interplay.

In the spirit of progressive Americana instrumental fusion guitarists such as Steve Tibbetts, Ralph Towner and others, guitar pioneer and fretboard innovator Jon Durant remains cutting edge, contemporary and timeless in his approach on Momentarily.


Roots Music Report presents a new interview with Jon Durant 

RMR: Your 2024 album Momentarily is a classic.

Jon Durant: Glad you like Momentarily, it’s maybe my favorite thing I’ve done. Certainly it’s as personal to me as Parting Is (2018) but this time with a trio and a total ECM vibe.

RMR: What was your strategy in recording Momentarily? You often have so many projects going at the same time.

Jon Durant: Interestingly, the album happened after I’d taken a year off from serious recording. By the time I finished my tracks for Stephan Thelen’s Fractal Guitar 3 I was really burnt out. I’d done a ton of work over the previous several years and just needed a break. That was in the fall of 2021. In the spring of 2022, after the Russian invasion, Ukrainian singer Inna Kovtun and (her daughter) Polina came to live with us and I gave them my studio space to live in. In the late fall of 2022, Inna was working during Polina’s school hours, so I had a couple hours a day to get back to playing. The tracks all began as improvisations by me which I then rearranged and re-recorded for the trio. We started working on the tracks in the spring of 2023, and it took all year for everything to finish. I finally completed mixing in December of 2023.

RMR: Even though Mutual Isolation features almost the same lineup of players, it does sound more upbeat than Momentarily. I was thinking Inna and the war in Ukraine was on your mind.

Jon Durant: Mutual Isolation is definitely a bit more upbeat and less based on improv, though there’s plenty of improv on it. There’s no question that the war had an impact on my mindset, the track “Rockets On Kyiv” was done the morning I found out that Russia had bombed the glass pedestrian bridge where we filmed some of the scenes of our video for the song “Hannochka” from the Edwin Durant Kovtun album. 

RMR: Just to catch up with your projects can you list your most recent albums and recordings?

Jon Durant: My most recent albums:

Fractal Sextet (2022)

Fractal Sextet is a group which came out of the desire to create a live ensemble to recreate the work that Swiss guitarist Stephan Thelen had done on his Fractal Guitar albums. The first person Stephan wanted to build a deeper connection with was the Italian keyboardist/composer Fabio Anile. When we discussed possible bass players, we realized it would be great to add my regular collaborator Colin Edwin.

That combination began to take the music in some very exciting new directions and we knew something special was brewing. While discussing drummers, the music is deep polyrhythmic minimalist groove music, which means the drummer must be very advanced, Colin recommended an Israeli drummer now in Boston named Yogev Gabay. He’s teaching at Berklee and plays in the Grammy-winning Berklee Indian Ensemble.

Finally, Stephan and I have both worked with the amazing Swiss percussionist Andi Pupato (Nik Bårtsch’s Ronin, Andreas Vollenwider). His distinctive percussion adds deep color and musicality to the whole picture. There will be a second Fractal Sextet album coming later this year, to be released on Rare Noise Records, called A Sky Full Of Hope.

Stephan Thelen is best known for his group Sonar, but he’s also very notable for his three “Fractal Guitar” albums in which he paired his polyrhythmic guitar alongside a variety of experimental guitarists including David Torn, Eivind Aarset, Henry Kaiser, Markus Retuer and many others. I played on all three, with extensive contributions to the second and third albums. In addition to all this, he has done two classical recordings, the first featured a composition commissioned by the Kronos Quartet. The second was a collaboration with Fabio Anile, and the Romanian Al Pari Quartet.

In addition, Stephan and I did a duo guitar album, Crossings, in 2021. This project began just as he was finishing Fractal Guitar 2 and the lockdown began. It was a really interesting take on the two of us and our very different approaches to the guitar.


Burnt Belief, Mutual Isolation (2021)

During the pandemic, Colin and I began sending tracks back and forth and the resulting album Mutual Isolation was written in the span of just two weeks. We had hoped to take the compositions into the same studio where we’d done the Edwin Durant Kovtun album, but the pandemic just kept on going… so we recorded Vinny’s drums at his home studio. The engineer came in and set up while Vinny was out. Then went home and logged in remotely. And Vinny absolutely nailed it.

We wanted it to feel “live” and I think we captured that. All of my guitar parts are my demos, warts and all, because I wanted to keep that live feeling. I also played keyboards on the album, as I had on the previous Burnt Belief albums, and my solo album Soul Of A River. In the end we added Andi Pupato’s wonderful percussion to a few tracks and the Estonian trumpeter Aleksei Saks graced us with his gorgeous tones on a few pieces as well.


Inna Kovtun, Burning Fires (2023)

I produced, and wrote all the music for this EP. We started a couple pieces when Inna was here visiting in the fall of 2021. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, I invited Inna and her daughter Polina (she will turn 10 next month) to come and live with us here in Portland. Which they did. We finished up the tracks we began and wrote and recorded the title track that spring and summer. We hadn’t initially planned a release for her but as their stay extended and she was thinking about an artist visa, we decided to do the EP as part of that plan. The title track ended up being the “track of the day” on the influential KCRW radio station in Los Angeles. The opening track, “Kolisanka” (Lullaby) features a wonderful string arrangement from Fabio Anile, my Fractal Sextet bandmate.


Jon Durant, Soul Of A River (2020)

This was an experiment in a couple different directions. 1: It’s based on Piano… I played a digital piano through my guitar rig and the result was quite intriguing. I added some cloud guitar and fretless as well, and it ended up being a really nice album. 2: It was released on Myndstream records, with the expectation that they would promote it… but of course they didn’t...