Sung Jo leads a quartet on Dream that walks a fine line-pushing at the edges of the jazz envelope, yet still swinging like crazy. The result is an album that has both narrative logic and these splashes of new sounds. The Houston, Texas-based guitarist begins working in perfect tandem with tenor saxophonist Woody Witt, performing as if joined at the hip on "Remember,' the first of eight originals. Drummer Hayden Hamilton and bassist Bill Vonderhaar provide only the lightest, most discreet accompaniment as Sung Jo begins a solo filled with this stirring amount of space. Sung Jo is unafraid to let what he doesn't play communicate as much as what he, in fact, does. Not that he keeps quiet for long, though. Over the course of "Remember'-and, indeed, this whole Dream project-Sung Jo shows both a flair for the familiar riffy brilliance of Wes Montgomery, but also the soaring rock-influenced runs of Bill Frisell ... and then everything in between. Witt takes a more prominent role initially on the subsequent "Heavy Rain,' playing with a curling romanticism as Vonderhaar plucks happily away at the bass. Sung Jo is so supportive as to almost disappear in the warm waves of Witt's performance. When he finally emerges, well into the song, his tone has quieted into an emotional echo of Pat Metheny. That leads to Sung Jo's title track, a billowing cloud of cool-jazz melancholy. Hamilton's subtly conceived drum signature providing only the loosest of structures as the guitarist performs with a searching quietude. "Schizophrenic,' rather than settling for something frenetic, instead finds Sung Jo and Witt again opening with a meticulously designed duet. They then take turns that are earthy and smartly reflective. Sung Jo returns to a tone that's more directly influenced by rock music, though he never stumbles into cliché. Hamilton, meanwhile, ramps up into a propulsive din-pushing everyone to greater insights. The swinging "Delusion' opens the door for an impressive blowing session, as Witt and Vonderhaar set things up with an opening stanza that is commanding and yet smooth as oak. Sung Jo continues to push his core sound-experimenting with a faster, higher register, but never letting go of his core ebullience. When Witt returns, he matches Sung Jo stride for stride, but without sounding blustery of hollow. "No One,' a track that starts with this hushed wit, goes even further to illustrate the canny concentration and edgy musical questing that gives Dream so much intrigue. Sung Jo begins his turn by playing with a furious abandon. Then, after unleashing a flurry of notes, the guitarist then hits a funky groove midway through his solo-opening the door for a smoky, R&B-infused solo by Witt. Vonderhaar opens "Lie Awake' on a thudding, mysterious note, before being joined by Sung Jo's lyrically dramatic, Miles Davis-inspired signature. Vonderhaar then holds that determined rhythmic line as Witt soars in, playing with a tough ambition. Hamilton's role here is primarily to provide accents, the occasional rumble on the toms or cymbal wash. That adds even more turbulence to Witt's virtuoso conclusion-giving the tune suspense, tension and then finally release. "March 5th,' the closing tune on Dream, again makes use of a skipping bass line from Vonderharr, but the rest of the quartet quickly joins in-with Sung Jo playing a keyboard-like double line with Witt. As the saxophonist begins his own muscular variations, Sung Jo plays with a series of interesting abstractions-strumming, then letting the sound decay away; blurting out one-note comments. When he finally takes his turn, though, Sung Jo's tone has become more insistent, more emotionally direct. He plays with a thorny aggression, echoing Witt's attitude and then expanding from there. The track serves as a fiery conclusion to an album of expressionistic, but never overbearing perseverance. Sung Jo and Co. Continually push themselves toward new thoughts and new voicings on Dream, combining influences and then making those ideas their own. The results are as listenable as they are intriguing. Review by Nick DeRiso On Dream, guitar wizard Sung Jo leads his quartet through an indulgent, immediate session that provides plenty of space for each member to express themselves. Dream was recorded in one day, which makes the abundant musicianship and band communication found on the album even more impressive. Recording more than an hour of listenable music in one day is a feat unto itself, but for the band to manufacture the inspired, intensely difficult sound found on Dream in such a short time is truly stunning. Beyond the obvious Berklee-bred chops and flawless sense of melody, there's plenty more over which listeners can marvel here. The quartet has an uncanny sense of each other, and each passing moment of music holds a wealth of musical magic. Jo's style doesn't necessarily bring to mind any particular guitar greats, but the influence of icons like Bill Frisell, Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino and Pat Metheny is easy to hear. The Sung Jo sound is not an entirely original one, but it's far from derivative. Jo is joined by players as enormously talented as himself in Hayden Hamilton (drums), Woody Witt (tenor sax) and Bill Vonderhaar (bass). Track names like "Delusion," "Schizophrenic," and "Lie Awake" may hint at a wilder experience, but there's no frenzy here, just sophisticated and exploratory modern jazz. Listeners are immediately treated to some delicious note-mongering as Witt and Jo work a dizzying procession on "Remember" to start the album. The head of the tune is quite angular, but the breaks find the band settling into a comfy zone of patient but focused soloing where Witt shines the brightest. Witt also sends the next song, "Heavy Rain," sailing into a swinging state. Vonderhaar and Hamilton lock in to a strutting groove and Witt cuts loose for a good five minute sax romp before Jo jumps in and completely changes the tone of the tune. He offers up long, insistent notes for a bit and then slides in behind the rhythm section to add funkier bits and rollercoaster-ride solos. The song's final few moments are wrung out with a buttery bass solo and an astounding full band flourish. The quartet tends to take their time, and the album's eight songs span an hour and change. Lengthy compositions and jazz go hand in hand, but Jo and the guys are able to make 9 minutes seem much shorter thanks to their consistently entertaining work. "March 5th" incorporates a busy, bopping style that makes it breeze right by, "No One" shuffles engagingly through tempos and solo spaces, and "Delusion" has a slick style that captures motion within the music. There are more efficient compositions on Dream as well, such as the vignette-like title track, which creates an undeniable atmosphere using only mallet-struck drums and dense guitar chords, and "Lie Awake." "Lie Awake" is nearly as sparse as "Dream," but the whole group gets in on the action. A repetitive, hypnotic bass note surges under Jo's evocative guitar and Witt's expressive sax work as Hamilton, who also engineered the album, directs the mood with dramatic percussion. Dream must have been a dream album to record for the band. The finished product shows off not only the music that currently compels them, but the inherent longevity such talent is sure to foster. Jazz fans can look forward to more amazing work from all of the involved musicians for quite some time. Review by Bryan Rodgers All songs written and arranged by Sung Jo Sung Jo - Guitar Hayden Hamilton - Drums Woody Witt - Tenor Saxophone Bill Vonderhaar - Bass sungjo.net firstname.lastname@example.org.