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Like so many other musicians I’ve written about, Corey Christiansen was born into a musical family, said event having taken place on July 26, 1971. His father, Michael Christiansen, was the head of the guitar program at Utah State University for nearly 30 years. He took up the guitar at the tender age of 12 and studied under his father.
After he graduated from high school, Christiansen earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Utah State U. and a master’s degree in jazz performance from Jack Petersen at the University of South Florida.
From 2000 to 2007 he taught jazz at the USF and was senior editor and guitar clinician for Mel Bay Publications. Then he returned to Utah and became director of curriculum for The Music School. Also in 2007, he signed with Origin Records and made two albums for them.
The album I’m going to talk about this time around is his second Origin recording, the 2008 release “Roll With It”.
Roll With It, 2008, Origin Records
The personnel for this album are:
Corey Christiansen, guitar
David Halliday, tenor sax
Pat Bianchi, Hammond B3 organ
Matt Jorgensen, drums
“Roll With It” consists of seven songs, all of which were written by Corey Christiansen. Most of them are a bit more mellow than the usual suspects found here, but, as we found out a few months ago with Beverly Ritz’s new release “Buddy & Me”, mellow does not have to mean “boring”.
Up first is “Your Way”, a nice piece that gives everyone a workout. It gets especially good about three minutes in when Halliday steps forward for his sax solo and gives the whole thing a decidedly funky feel. That feeling is continued by Bianchi’s B-3 and Jorgensen’s drums.
“I’ll Just Wait” is next. It has a bright, happy sound that makes it hard not to like. Halliday’s sax adds just the right touch, and Bianchi’s fingers fly over the B-3’s keys with a light, sure touch.

The title track follows. “Roll With It” the song is a funky bit of soul-jazz that starts out mellow. Then the funk-meter and the cool-meter rise in tandem as the guys cut loose and give it their all. I really like Bianchi’s work here on the Hammond B-3.

“Steele” has a kind of different beginning, with Halliday and Bianchi trading licks for half a minute or so before Christiansen takes the lead and runs off with it. The brisk pace makes “Steele” a standout, in my opinion. Indeed, when I was still doing “Saturday Night Jazz”, this was the one track from this album that I played most.
“Kaiya’s Dance” is the longest song on the album, running just under ten minutes. The first several minutes is Christiansen’s show, with everyone else taking the backseat. Perhaps more than any other song on this album, “Kaiya’s Dance” displays Christiansen’s abilities. When he does finally step back, Bianchi comes to the forefront, followed by Halliday.
Here’s Corey at Interlochen.
Through all this, Seattleite Jorgensen does such a splendid job of setting the pace with his drums that you sometimes forget he’s even there, that’s how perfectly he blends in with the others.
The last song I’m going to write about is “Half Pay”. I would love to know the backstory that goes with that title, which to me suggests someone going through a personal and financial tragedy. The song, however, hardly fits that scenario. Instead of being dark and foreboding, it’s livelier than most of the others. Halliday finds a vibrato hiding in his sax, however briefly it may be, and it lends a sexy, funky note to this great song.
All-in-all, I think you’ll find “Roll With It” by Corey Christiansen to be a great addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!
You can learn more about Corey Christiansen and his music by going to his web site, or by reading his bio at the web site for the Jacobs School of Music at the University of Indiana.
As a bonus, here’s one more video I found of Corey, only this one is over an hour long! It’s part of a series of lessons on playing the guitar, this one on Quartal Harmony. Not for everyone, obviously.
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Copyright © 2012 by Al Evans. All rights reserved.