Like a trusted friend, contemporary jazz guitarist Les Sabler finds that playing guitar brings him tranquility, especially when the noise of the world becomes too much. He can disappear by slipping into an electric guitar groove and find calmness while exploring a nylon string guitar riff. While sheltering in place in his Nashville home during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and as civil unrest erupted, Sabler quieted his mind while getting to know the vintage Gibson Johnny Smith guitar model recommended by his producer, two-time GRAMMY winner Paul Brown.
The resulting album, “Tranquility,” a soothing cocktail of cosmopolitan jazz, soul-powered R&B grooves and mellifluous pop instrumentals, dropped last Friday on the New Vista label.
Theriot’s New Orleans heritage informs Sabler’s new single, “Crescent City Strut,” which has earned Billboard’s Most Added and Most Increased Plays honors in recent weeks. Like the Crescent City itself, the tune offers mystery, intrigue and seductive allure marked by crafty guitar play amplified by lush horn section work.
After tracking two songs last February in Brown’s Los Angeles recording studio, work on the 10-track set, Sabler’s eighth album and first since 2014, had to be put on hold. When the project resumed in July, they were joined by the socially distant bassist Roberto Vally, drummer Gorden Campbell, percussionist Lenny Castro, Lee Thornburg (trumpet and trombone) and saxophonist Greg Vail. Sabler and Brown teamed to write eight songs for the set, collaborating on compositions with Shane Theriot (“Crescent City Strut,” “City Rhythm,” “Three Dee,” “Esselle’s Dance” and “Tranquility”), Lew Laing (“Keep Pushin’” and “Where Has She Gone”) and Jeff Carruthers (“Easy Moves”).
The seeds of “Tranquility,” which hit No. 7 on Amazon’s New Releases in Jazz chart, were planted nearly two years ago when Sabler wrote, recorded and released “In The Light.” He re-recorded his guitar parts for the slick cool jazz single that spent three weeks at No. 1 at WAVE.FM in Sabler’s native Canada.