Sting tickets are currently selling for up to $400 on eBay. His stadium tour in support of his last mega-selling album, Sacred Love, is one of the hottest tickets of the summer. And this guy was just a bass player. But while the one-named celebrity has been making middle-aged women swoon over his uber-polished vocal pop records, former Police bandmate Andy Summers has been dropping jazz albums left and right. And while he’s proven himself as a fantastic guitar player — both during and after his stint in the Police — Earth + Sky is arguably his best yet.
Summers’s skills have never been so sharp, and his compositions (incubating while his past two albums simply reworked Charles Mingus and Thelonius Monk) sound careful and deliberate. His experience in a pop-rock band has served him well; Summers has a definite knack for melody and song structure, keeping themes in the foreground and improvised sections to a functional minimum.
His explorative nature pushes this record past the bar set by most of his earlier solo work. Genres are tossed about randomly, with standard hotel-lobby jazz tunes like “The Diva Station” thrown in next to the finger-picked, classical-sounding “Parallels” and borderline rockers like the title track.
As great a leap forward Earth + Sky is for Summers, it treads little new ground for guitar-based jazz. Most all of the standard-bearers of jazz guitar today (namely John Scofield and Pat Metheny) tend to dabble in a variety of styles: rock, funk, reggae, or classical. Though Summers has more legitimate rock experience than today’s jazz pros, it only peeks through on this album in a few key spots. The generic, synth-heavy production and use of only session players — though fantastic ones, at that — don’t help to distinguish Earth + Sky either. Regardless, the record is an enjoyable one, laced with adept guitar playing and equally memorable tunes.