Ken Aldcroft Group Kirby Sideroad, Randal McIlroy, Coda March/April 2005.


Typically elegant and perceptive in understatement, Canadian guitarist/composer Ken Aldcroft impresses with the slow burn and the long stretch. At first listen, the two discs comprising Kirby Sideroad are very much of a mood, all twilight indigos with glimmers of light in the distance as conveyed in the slightly spooky cover photograph of a darkened road and field. While there is a sense of the witching hour approaching - call it music for driving home late at night, preferably in late autumn - there is ample variety to charge the atmosphere without breaking it. It begins with fairly dramatic bop in the title track, with an onimous, circling guitar figure. Alto saxophonist Evan Shaw is provocative company, however, kicking "A Strained Hello" back and forth between an easy-swinging blues and more urgent music. There's ample room for Shaw, bassist Wes Neal and drummer Joe Sorbara to nudge and comment upon the music, whether enhancing the atmospherics or, in "Not Far from Home", leaving pensiveness behind to groove. After "A Country Mile", where Aldcroft plays against his own plangent loops, he even gives the trio a chance to burn without him in "From A Pause". Fans of Bill Frisell, Terje Rypdal and Robert Fripp will find their entry points the fastest, yet Aldcroft is his own man.