Review: The Margaret Slovak Trio, Ballad for Brad

Jazz guitarist pulls beauty out of tragedy and triumph

Review: The Margaret Slovak Trio, <i>Ballad for Brad</i>

Real life often serves as inspiration for countless devotees of the Euterpean muse. Between a cancer diagnosis for her spouse, journalist Brad Buchholz (since recovered), the premature death of her sister Anne, and her own struggles with possible career-ending injuries after a car accident, Austin-based jazz guitarist Margaret Slovak has more animus than most. Joined by drummer Michael Sarin and bassist Harvie S., she lets it all out on her fourth album, Ballad for Brad. Alternating between classical and electric guitars, Slovak pays tribute to her sibling's struggle on "Song for Anne" and "Forty-Four," and salutes her husband's perseverance on the title tune. Another pair of testimonials add to the elegiac tone: the waltzing "Courage, Truth and Hope," dedicated to journalist Bill Moyers, and the lovely "Flowers for Marie," nodding to a beloved neighbor. The appropriately titled "Carrot Cake Blues" adds levity, but for the album's most potent track, Slovak reaches deep inside herself for the soulful "The Answer Within." Finding a sweet spot between sensitivity and swing, Slovak pulls beauty out of tragedy and triumph.

***.5

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