Mark Lettieri: The Baritone Sessions

Mark Lettieri, best known for his work with Snarky Puppy, is an intimidatingly skilled guitarist, but his playful, winking performances are too enjoyable to elicit feelings of inferiority. For the uninitiated, “Goonsquad” from Spark and Echo is a good place to start exploring his work:

Lettieri’s lines are memorable but never predictable, and his funk grooves, though complex, always feel natural. He’s also distinguished by his refusal to showboat, a rare trait in a scene saturated with competitive shredders.  Where many contemporary guitar gurus rely on glorified backing tracks–one-dimensional platforms for interminable, self-satisfied riffing–Lettieri resists the temptation of narcissism while retaining all that’s admirable about virtuosity. His playing, in short, centers on making songs and bandmates sound better, not on squeezing more notes into every measure. Lettieri’s latest album–Deep: The Baritone Sessions–stays true to form. To be sure, technical prowess is on display, but you’ll also find unpretentious (not to mention infectious) funk hooks as well as tasteful reticence and smart composition. It’s well worth a listen.