"Where's the melody?," that ancient cry of the jazz skeptic, is not likely to be heard around the music of pianist/composer Tom Grant.
Opening a two-night run Wednesday at Bon Appetit, Grant wasted no time making it clear that his multifaceted, brightly contemporary approach to jazz retains plenty of room for melodic variation. Grant originals like "The Wild Surf" and "Take Me to Your Dream" (the latter from his most recent, best-selling album) were typical of a listener-oriented pop music-focused style in which brief, repetitive, but catchy melodies serve as springboards to launch the musicians into improvisational flight.
But what might easily have resulted in little more than frothy background music became a considerably more heady brew, primarily as a result of the stunning solos of guitarist Dan Balmer and the intensely musical drumming of Carlton Jackson.
On piece after piece ("Mexican Restaurant" was perhaps the best example) Balmer moved easily and fluently from bent-note, rock-style wailing to fleet, precise, single-string jazz lines. Touching everything from Wes Montgomery octaves to Jim Hall runs and George Benson blues, he was the model of what a contemporary guitarist should be.