MOOD MUSIC is for elevators. Jazz provides a different kind of lift altogether. Here's a batch of recent albums by jazz and fusion guitarists who manage to fashion a variety of moods.
JOE PASS -- "Whitestone" (Pablo 2310-91 2). How do you neatly summarize an album that abounds with Brazilian melodies and rhythms, is laced with blues, boasts a Stevie Wonder tune and features some of the most conspicuously pop-oriented arrangements Pass has ever recorded? In a word: uneven. While Pass' playing is typically immaculate, some of the arrangements fleshed out by a so-so rhythm section make you long for one of his solo albums.
KENNY BURRELL -- "A La Carte" (Muse MR 5317). Combine Burrell's bluesy phrasing and relaxed swing with bassist Rufus Reid's warm tone and keen sense of harmony, and you have this thorougdelightful collection of duets. Although the program offers a nice mixture of ballads, blues and such jazz favorites as Sonny Rollins' calypso "St. Thomas," the album's real pleasure comes in hearing these two musicians work hand in glove.
AL DI MEOLA -- "Cielo e Terra" (Manhattan ST 53002). A mixture of solo tracks and duets featuring percussionist Airto Moreira, this is Di Meola's most subdued recording. True, there are glimpses of his extraordinary technique here and there, but mostly Di Meola tends to favor shimmering acoustic arpeggios and the lush textures created by a guitar synthesizer. As a result, the biggest challenge confronting the listener is staying awake.
BRUCE FORMAN -- "The Bash" (Muse MR 5315). Worthy of its name, "The Bash" is a studio session that crackles with the electricity of a live performance. Forman's improvisations are fiery and imaginative; the backing by pianist Albert Dailey, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Eddie Gladden is inspired; and the tunes, including several Forman originals, are first-rate.
PETER SPRAGUE -- "Na Pali Coast" (Concord Jazz CJ 277). This seamless collection finds Sprague (on acoustic and electric guitars) working with several musicians who share his articulate and melodic touch. Bassist Bob Magnusson shines brightest of all, thanks to his sensitively bowed and plucked contributions; and Sprague's refreshingly understated tribute to saxophonist John Coltrane fills out Side Two splendidly.
ALPHONSE MOUZON & LARRY CORYELL -- "The 11th House" (Pausa 7182). Waiting for Coryell's guitar to surface amid all of Mouzon's electronic drums and keyboards sometimes requires the patience of a saint, but it's generally worth it. Indeed, Coryell's performances are among the few rewards this rather derivative funkathon has to offer.