Plugged In, the ambitious debut album by Toronto Jazz guitarist Galen Weston, features 12 tracks that include 10 originals by Weston and arrangements of Keith Jarrett’s “Country” and Jimmy Van Huesen’s “Like Someone in Love”.

Weston is accompanied by veteran Toronto session players David Woodhead on fretless electric bass, Al Cross on drums, keyboardist Matt Horner, Richard Underhill on alto sax, and Rick Lazar on percussion.

The disc opens with “Funk Opus #2,” a lyrical number reminiscent of Texas guitar hero Eric Johnson, followed by the affecting ballad “Song for Daphne” which showcases Weston’s inviting tone and expressive playing. “Bensonite” is a nod to Weston’s main jazz guitar influences while “The Yellow Guitar (A Guitarra Amarela)” is a smooth offering that features some of the most seductive lines on the disc. “Rose Garden”, a lyrical melody laid over a sophisticated set of chord changes, features Underhill on alto sax playing in unison with wordless vocals by Prague-born singer Lenka Lichtenberg.

Next, Weston delivers an intimate acoustic fingerstyle version of Keith Jarrett’s “Country” before he and crew kick out Miami Vice style jams on “Galen’s Vice”. He then alternates between warm Wes Montgomery-styled octave playing and fluid single note lines on the soulful “Austin”.

The rock anthem “Tasteless” is Weston’s tribute to guitar god Steve Vai where his clean-tone re-imagining of Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Like Someone in Love” opens with a solo guitar intro that showcases some accomplished chordal melody playing. “Late and Never” has Weston throwing his sustained, slightly distorted guitar lines around with rockish authority before closing with “Rock Jam” — a dialogue of clean fingerpicked chords and contrapuntal bass lines.

As Weston states, “Plugged In represents a sonic exploration with my Yellow Stratocaster, ES-335, and other instruments on a two-year journey of writing and recording across a vast musical territory. Fueled by the inspiration of my favorite jazz and instrumental rock influences, this album is the culmination of many hours spent together with my guitars taming the howling of vintage Big Muff’s, cleaning tape heads on old echo machines, and tweaking the tone knobs on my classic Marshall and Fender amps in the simple yet enduring search of great tones.”

“A refined player from Toronto, Galen Weston straddles a myriad of styles on his auspicious debut as a leader. From his singing six-string work on the urgently funky “Bensonite” to his mellow lyricism on the melodic anthem “The Yellow Guitar,” his soulful expression on “Song for Daphne” or his unapologetic chops showcase on the fusiony “Tasteless,” Weston wails with conviction and rare facility. Definitely a talent deserving of wider recognition.”

Bill Milkowski
Contributor to Down Beat and Jazziz. He is also the author of “JACO: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius” and co-author of “Here And Now: The Autobiography of Pat Martino”