New York-based Jonathan Kreisberg has carved out a place for himself in jazz guitar royalty, both as a leader and as an irreplaceable fixture in Dr Lonnie Smith’s working trio. (Lonnie Smith knows something about picking guitar players: he played on George Benson’s first two records…)
Not only does Kreisberg have virtuoso technique, but he also has an incomparable ability to tell a story in anything he plays. He can play sheets of sound solos that channel John Coltrane or Allan Holdsworth. He can play solo guitar with the touch of Andre Segovia and the harmonic command of Keith Jarrett. In Lonnie Smith’s group, he plays rhythm guitar like he’s a member of James Brown’s JBs.
I first heard Jonathan on his 2004 release Nine Stories Wide (Criss Cross), featuring bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Bill Stewart. I was captivated by his tone and feel, his inventive melodies, and his connection to the tradition. His original music is challenging for the listener, but his vibe and groove entices the audience to be a part of the conversation.
I recommend several recordings—New for Now (2005), Wave Upon Wave (2015), as well as Spiral (2010) and Healer (2012) with Dr Lonnie Smith—but for me, the desert island album is One (2013), his first solo recording. That album inspired me to search out Jonathan as a teacher.
In years to come, Kreisberg will be seen a figurehead of the music—in the company of Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Bill Frisell and Jim Hall. In the meantime, he tours all over the world, both as a leader and with Dr. Lonnie Smith. When at home in New York, he can be heard Wednesday nights at The Bar Next Door.