By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
When Mike Bryce graduated from Bowling Green State University he already had experience producing two albums.
Bryce, a jazz guitar performance major, had founded the Roots Music Club on campus, and took the lead in producing the club’s annual compilations.
Now he’s releasing his own CD, “Eclectic Guitar,” featuring 10 originals that cover the gamut of styles he’s explored over the years.
Bryce will celebrate the new album with a show Saturday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. More information is available at www.mikebrycemusic.com.
While some of the tunes date back to his senior recital, Bryce said he didn’t really get started in earnest on the project until the beginning of this year. Part of the delay was working it in with his teaching schedule. He has about 40 private students at his own studio, Studio Connection, and in Bluffton.
True to the title, “Eclectic Guitar” reflects a variety of styles. Those styles are in part driven by the singers and instrumentalists Bryce recruited to join him.
At the core is the rhythm section of Devonte Stovall, on bass, electric bass, and cello, and JP Stebal on drums. He’s worked with them dating back to his time at BGSU, and in the band The Barncats.
“It’s comfortable,” he said of collaborating with his bandmates.
They are joined by vocalists and violinists on the rest of the tracks, some are folks he knew from the Roots Music Club, or jazz classes, or are friends.
He said he tailored the songs to fit the approaches of the various singers. “A lot of it is not jazz,” he said. He said there’s a spontaneity to how he composes.
Beau Hamann sings both on the rocking opener, “Barn Fire” and the swing ballad “First Love.”
Amy Hewitt is an old friend, who works construction, with a fine singing voice, reminiscent of Nora Jones. She’s featured on “Good Enough” and “Promise,” both have a folk meets jazz feel.
Flannery Murnen comes from the Roots Music Club. She adds just the right amount of grit for “Middle-Class Moonshiner,” a reflection of post-college years with its uncertainties and college debt. She returns later for the reflective “Staring at the Sun.”
Jared Lucas steps in to sing the country-tinged “Only for You” and Emily Hunt performs the atmospheric “Blue Mist.”
Adding color and solos to the mix are violinists Davis West and Kathleen Schnerer.
Bryce’s guitar lines, both on electric and acoustic, shape shift throughout to fit the style, whether it’s the tricked up jazz rhythms of “Strike Three” or the pastoral picking of the closer, “New Beginning.”
He said he worked hard to make sure the album for all its diversity of grooves still flows and achieves a sense of unity.
The Grounds show will feature almost all the performers from the album. Bryce said they’ll also perform some older material from the Roots Music Club sets.
Bryce wrote the lyrics for the songs. Writing was a real focus before he got deeply into music. “It took a back seat in college.” Now songwriting gives him the chance to bring it to the fore.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Bryce started playing guitar at 12. He shifted to jazz as a natural progression in his playing.
BGSU turned out to be a good place to be.
He found a balance between the formal, “logical,” approach to composing and the more intuitive approach taken by the Roots Music Club songwriters.
They are less concerned with the niceties of music theory. “They just want to make a song that sounds good.”