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Guitarist Andrew Renfroe sets sail on 'Running Through The Storm'

Lauren Desberg

With his blend of roots, blues and blistering improvisation, guitarist Andrew Renfroe has emerged as a distinct soloist and soul-stirring communicator. As an improviser and composer, Renfroe has a surprising reservoir of musical inspiration that spans Tom Petty, Mississippi Fred McDowell, John Coltrane, Roy Hargrove and field recordings from West Africa.

Word continues to spread about his unique conception. On his first full-length album, Run in the Storm, Renfroe reconciles present-day electro-acoustic sound design with several formative influences and life experiences.

Andrew Renfroe Complete Interview

"I'm originally from Florida...and there's always been a roots and rural esthetic that has resonated with me," Renfroe says on this installment of Let Me Tell You 'Bout It. "I'm interested in finding the first kernels of something before it all [gets] watered down."

Renfroe and his band, which includes drummer Curtis Nowosad, bassist Rick Rosato, pianist Taber Gable and saxophonist Braxton Cook, are a malleable unit. They create a steady rhythmic underpinning on tunes like "Borrowed Time," "1998," and "Dula." Renfroe's through-composed melodies are rendered with depth and sensitivity — and when Cook, guest trumpeter Marquis Hill and Renfroe take their individual solo turns, they extend the given narratives into several wildly dynamic climaxes.

The album's title track, in particular, is a musical representation of a special childhood story that had become a metaphor for living.

"When I was a child, we were on a boat and a huge, dangerous thunderstorm came upon us. We were really in it," Renfroe says. "What you don't want to do on a boat is to get caught sideways in a wave pattern...you want to be running into the storm, and you have to be deliberate about it. It's a good lesson for life in that you don't want to be blindsided or caught stagnating."

Stylistically, Renfroe's sound on the album recalls a similar approach found initially on 2003's Heartcore, a recording by guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel which blurred the lines of organic improvisation with swirling, post-production textures. Run in the Storm was mostly recorded in real time, and Renfroe credits Nowosad for learning and finding new ways to navigate the acoustic and electric drum sounds that are the foundation for this sound.

"[Heartcore] is one of my favorite albums ever," Renfroe explains. "As [our band] was preparing to rehearse for this album, I asked Curtis Nowasad, 'Is there a way that you can combine electric sounds with [organic, traditional] phrasing?' He went out and bought electric drum triggers and learned how to do it all on the spot, and we all were reacting to him as we were playing. He really hooked it up."

Renfroe joins a growing number of musicians recently relocated to Los Angeles from New York. His new album is released independently, and as word continues to spread about his unique voice as a band leader and player, he feels optimistic about musicians having more opportunities to perform their work, post-COVID, before appreciative audiences.

"If all the talent is here, if there are all these great musicians, then there has to be an outlet," he says. "I think that talent-wise, Los Angeles is a close number two to New York, and I'm interested and excited to see how it develops now that all these people are here in the area".

Greg Bryant has been a longtime curator of improvisational music. At the age of 3 in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, he was borrowing his father’s records and spinning them on his Fisher Price turntable. Taking in diverse sounds of artistry from Miles Davis, Les McCann, James Brown, Weather Report and Jimi Hendrix gave shape to Greg's musical foundation and started him on a path of nonstop exploration.