Mike Bono, Familiar Places Review
by: Ferell Aubre
Mike Bono is a New York City based guitarist, educator, composer, and arranger. Bono holds a degree from Berklee College of Music and was the first guitarist in the school’s illustrious history to receive a Presidential Scholarship. His abilities have been heard at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Town Hall Theater, Birdland, The Blue Note, and clubs and festivals throughout Europe and Africa. His performance and recording credits include Erykah Badu, Chris Cheek, Andra Day, Dayna Stephens, Julian Lage, Rich Perry, Natalie Cressman, and Michael Blume, amongst many others. Bono’s recordings include his debut album called From Where You Are, a co-led album with Natalie Cressman called Etchings in Amber” and a second co-led album with pianist Christian Li titled Visitors. He is now releasing his fourth album, a standards album entitled Familiar Places on La Reserve Records. Bono is endorsed by ZT Amplifiers, Wire World Pro Audio Instrument Cables, Master Strap, and Source Audio. The personnel is Mike Bono, guitar; Jared Henderson, double bass; and Lee Fish, drums.
“Turnaround” opens with Fish establishing the groove. Bono adds rhythmic augmentation to the melody to make it his own sound. His tone is a warm box sound that is a little brighter than Pat Metheny’s, but still in the same vein. Hearing Bono play through a set of blues changes really lets his harmonic language shine through. Fish and Henderson provide an insistent swing beneath Bono’s snaking lines. Henderson lends sympathetic support to Fish’s poignant solo statement.
“I’ll Be Seeing You” features a beautiful solo guitar intro and a hypnotic brushed swing groove. Bono uses both texture and melodic lines to build his solo statement. Keeping close to the melody for most of the time, Bono has obvious influences of multi-generational jazz techniques. The trio does create an excellent shape to the solo, and it acts as a satisfactory closing statement to the album.
Bono’s playing on Familiar Places is an experience that is satisfying for a jazz trio. The music here is related to the historical lineage of jazz guitar that is both modern and traditional. Familiar Places represents Bono’s understanding of the standard repertoire and his interior journey to expand modern jazz guitar with his own unique expression of his playing experience.