With three albums now to his credit, Riddle has demonstrated the ability to tease out those musical discoveries again and again. In "One Night in Red Bank," Riddle lay claim to the standards ("Wave," "Freddy the Freeloader," "St. Thomas," and the epic "Autumn Leaves.") and reminded us of why those tunes became standards in the first place. Now, with "Luna Loca" Riddle introduces songs of his own. It's an audacious move, lining up next to cherished heavyweights. But the tunes and the performances stand up. "Luna Loca," the song, fits in just fine next to "Take Five."
The original tunes are strong – fluid, infectious and playful. With repeated listenings, they reveal shadings and complexities that remind you of the redemptive power of beautiful melodies played well. Riddle's tunes have a sense of inevitability to them, like all well-contructed songs do, yet there's plenty of room for surprises.
The rhythm section (Joe Peterson on double bass and Dan Weeks on drums) provides snap and momentum, freeing Riddle to find the sweet spots and re-imagine the melody line. Chuck Welch, Riddle's first guitar teacher, provides the rhythm guitar and steps forward with occasional leads. The songs contain the various DNA strands that make jazz what it is: blues, Latin, bebop, ballad.
In Riddle's hands, the electric jazz guitar combines the warmth and tonal quality of early Pat Metheny and the clean single notes of Wes Montgomery. Riddle's pacing might be what truly sets him apart; he pushes the songs forward with deceptive ease, proving somehow that patience and urgency can inhabit the same sonic space. (To the list that includes snowflakes and fingerprints, now add Riddle's guitar solos.)
Raised on the Jersey Shore, Riddle got the performing bug playing classic rock in bar bands. Not content to riff his way into musical complacency, he found his voice listening to the jazz masters. He returns to New Jersey to record. Luna Loca was recorded at Jankland Studio, the jazz mecca owned and operated by sound engineer and trumpet great Steve Jankowski, co-musical director for Blood, Sweat and Tears. Riddle's travels between Tampa, where he studies jazz guitar with LaRue Nickelson, a professor at University of South Florida, and The Jersey Shore have given him a broad musical vocabulary and wide ambition. In the school of jazz, Riddle is at once student, teacher, historian, and practitioner.