Howard Alden makes a powerful impression, even when you can’t see him. In Woody Allen’s great 1999 film Sweet and Lowdown the veteran jazz guitarist supplied the beautiful fretwork delivered by Sean Penn’s fictional Emmet Ray, a tormented musician who describes himself as “the second greatest guitarist in the world” (topped only by the very real guitar legend Django Reinhardt). At the time, Alden wasn’t particularly associated with Reinhardt’s Gypsy swing sound, but he’s a highly versatile player who thrives in just about any setting.
Despite releasing three acclaimed CDs over the past decade featuring some of jazz’s most accomplished improvisers, John Ettinger is one of the East Bay’s best kept musical secrets. The El Cerrito violinist gained a good deal of attention in 2006 with “Kissinger In Space,” an album as strange, wondrous and amusing as its title. He’s mostly been out of sight since the release of his last CD, 2008’s beauteous “Inquatica” with Pete Forbes on drums, piano, and banjo, a multi-tracked improvisational duo session marked by his judicious use of space and a haunting version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.”