If you haven't yet heard of Brooklyn-based guitarist Chris Biesterfeldt it's probably because he's spent so much of his career in the shadows. He was literally under the stage in the pit bands of Broadway shows like "Rent," "Pippin," and "Hairspray," and he has contributed to the soundtracks of TV shows like "Sesame Street." But you can only hide phenomenal dexterity and wonderful style for so long; it's time for Biesterfeldt to be recognized. His new album, a tribute to the great pianist Phineas Newborn, should take care of that.
The songs on "Phineas" are either written by Newborn or were performed memorably by him. Beisterfeldt's arrangements — with excellent support by Jared Schonig on drums and Matthew Rybicki, bass — are based on Newborn's piano-oriented renditions, but they translate beautifully to guitar. Biesterfeldt possesses a breezy touch in his chording that animates every track. As far as the solos go, his fingers just fly over the fret board on tunes like "Manteca" and "Blues from Phineas" (Biesterfeldt's only original tune on the album). But he is equally effective when he slows down on the beautiful ballad "The Midnight Sun Will Never Set" or gets into a mid-tempo groove on a tune like "Sweet and Lovely."