MARGARET SLOVAK - DETOURED, NOT DETERRED: Margaret Slovak battled back from debilitating injuries and continues to craft warm-toned, deeply personal guitar jazz. Following a terrible car accident in 2003, Margaret Slovak must’ve had thoughts of never being able to play the guitar again. Prior to that career-threatening event — which occurred while she was living in Portland, Oregon — Slovak had already released a mesmerizing solo guitar album, 1998’s Undying Hope. That release showed great promise while bearing the influences of Michael Hedges, Ralph Towner and maybe even a little Bola Sete, along with some aspects of Pat Metheny’s 1979 solo gem, New Chatauqua. Since the accident, she released New Wings in 2005, then had two surgeries on her right shoulder and right hand in Portland in 2006 and 2008. After relocating to New York City in 2008 (her second time living in the Big Apple after a stint from 1988 to 1993), she went through six more surgeries between 2010 and 2014 to regain use of her right hand fingers. The remarkably resilient Aurora, Colorado, native, who now lives in Austin, Texas, makes her heroic comeback with the self-released Ballad for Brad, named for her husband, Austin-based journalist Brad Buchholz. Accompanied by veteran New York bassist Harvie S and drummer Michael Sarin (who had previously played on her 1989 recording For the Momentalong with pianist Fred Hersch and bassist Michael Formanek), Slovak plays with uncommon delicacy on the lightly swinging, harmonically compelling opener, “Again.” The gorgeous and introspective “Flowers for Marie,” underscored by Sarin’s sensitive brushwork and featuring a melodic bass solo from Harvie S, casts a spell while she affects a darkly alluring, Pat Martino-esque tone to her single-note playing on “The Answer Within,” a tune that also showcases Sarin’s interactive instincts and melodic touch on the kit. Two tender and slightly melancholic offerings, “Song for Anne” and the sparse solo piece “Forty-Four,” were written for her sister who died from a drug overdose at age 44, while the trio strikes a more upbeat note on the loping waltz-time swinger “Courage, Truth and Hope,” written to honor journalist Bill Moyers, “who has the courage to tell the truth, which brings us all hope,” as she writes in the liner notes. Slovak again conjures a Martino-esque tone on “Carrot Cake Blues,” which has guitarist and bassist locked in some tricky, angular unisons on the head and also features Harvie erupting for a show-stopping solo. The title track is for her husband, who suffered a recurrence of cancer the evening before the first day of recording this CD in New Jersey in November 2019 … the first sign of the disease in eight years. That track somehow balances a sense of anxiety and comfort in the angular lines on the head which alternate with Slovak’s pleasing harmonies and warmly caressed nylon-string guitar tones. Another highlight here is a beguiling bossa nova arrangement of her piece “Thirty-Three,” which she had previously recorded unaccompanied on 1998’s Undying Hope. “The injuries that I sustained in the 2003 car accident affected my ability to play the guitar for nearly 20 years,” Slovak writes in an email. “I adapted and found new ways to play, and focused on performing mainly in healthcare settings. But after eight surgeries and many more years of physical therapy, my right hand fingers finally started to work again, which enabled me to complete this CD and return to more public performing. It is an astounding miracle that I am grateful for each and every day."”

Bill Milkowski: JAZZIZ MAGAZINE - August 3, 2022

Guitarist Margaret Slovak’s style is deeply personal and rooted in her multifaceted creative background. Also an accomplished graphic artist, Slovak writes music that is almost visual while she imbues her drawings with musicality. On her fourth release as a leader, the intimate Ballad For Brad, Slovak presents entirely original material penned in celebration of various life events and people close to her. For instance, she composed the contemplative title track for her husband, who was battling cancer in 2019. Opening with a guitar fugue, it metamorphoses into a bittersweet tune with gently sashaying refrains that brim with understated passion. Bassist Harvie S engages Slovak in a shimmering and tender duet, while drummer Michael Sarin punctuates the dialogue with a soft rumble. Meanwhile “Thirty-Three,” written on her 33rd birthday when she lived in Portland, Oregon, is evocative of the city’s laid-back charm and green spaces. S starts with wistful con-arco phrases followed by Slovak elegantly taking the lead with a serene melody. The bassist’s subsequent solo is eloquent and poetic, while Sarin’s use of sparse beats and thrums is quite cinematic. Out of this Zen atmosphere emerges Slovak’s intricate improvisation filled with bluesy nostalgia. A trend of melancholy runs through the recording, especially on the two pieces dedicated to Slovak’s late sister. On the contemplative “Song for Annie,” Sarin’s cymbal splashes, S’ bowed lines and Slovak’s mellifluous vamps create a dramatic ambience. With superb camaraderie, the trio then weaves an intricate tale with its interlinked individual performances. In contrast, “Forty-Four” is a moving, unaccompanied sonata. Slovak’s nylon strings resonate in the enveloping silence, expressing grief, and the result is evocative of looking through old family photographs. Ballad for Brad is a lyrical work of vibrant and emotive spontaneity. It also balances a variety of motifs with sophistication. Presented in an alluring package adorned with Slovak’s own cover art and poignant liner notes, this album is the guitarist’s best to date.”

— Hrayr Attarian: JAZZIZ MAGAZINE - July 5, 2022

Jazz guitarist pulls beauty out of tragedy and triumph. Real life often serves as inspiration for countless devotees of the Euterpean muse. Between a cancer diagnosis for her spouse, journalist Brad Buchholz (since recovered), the premature death of her sister Anne, and her own struggles with possible career-ending injuries after a car accident, Austin-based jazz guitarist Margaret Slovak has more animus than most. Joined by drummer Michael Sarin and bassist Harvie S., she lets it all out on her fourth album Ballad for Brad. Alternating between classical and electric guitars, Slovak pays tribute to her sibling's struggle on "Song for Anne" and "Forty-Four," and salutes her husband's perseverance on the title tune. Another pair of testimonials add to the elegiac tone: the waltzing "Courage, Truth and Hope," dedicated to journalist Bill Moyers, and the lovely "Flowers for Marie," nodding to a beloved neighbor. The appropriately titled "Carrot Cake Blues" adds levity, but for the album's most potent track, Slovak reaches deep inside herself for the soulful "The Answer Within." Finding a sweet spot between sensitivity and swing, Slovak pulls beauty out of tragedy and triumph.”

— Michael Toland: THE AUSTIN CHRONICLE - July 8, 2022

Guitarist/composer Margaret Slovak is that rarest of things — a jazz guitarist with a truly unique style. And by “style” I don’t mean her tone, which is genuinely lovely in its warmth and depth but not radically different from that of most straight-ahead players. It’s the shape of her writing and her playing. Listening to this program of original tunes, it’s not always easy to discern the line separating heads from solos, for one thing. For another, her supporting players (bassist Harvie S and drummer Michael Sarin) tend to function almost like co-leaders, helping her create joint musical statements rather than just laying back and providing scaffolding for her own personality. And it’s worth noting that she writes beautiful, beautiful tunes. Highly recommended to all libraries.”

Rick Anderson: CD HOTLIST - June 2022

The Margaret Slovak Trio: “Ballad For Brad” – Jazz guitarist Margaret Slovak’s new album is her first in many years, its original compositions inspired by family and friendships, the music being full of love and hope, just what we need in these dark days. Joining her on this release are the incredible Harvie S on bass and Michael Sarin on drums. The album opens with “Again,” which has a gentle and hopeful vibe, with an inquisitive, curious sense as well in the guitar work. The bass and drums have their own clear voices here, and Harvie S.’s lead on bass has a comforting effect. That’s followed by “Flowers For Marie,” which has a more somber sound on guitar at the start, and goes through a few changes as it develops, becoming quite pretty approximately halfway through, like a fond memory you like to revisit from time to time. This track was written about a friend. Then “The Answer Within” begins with an exciting rhythm. I love Michael Sarin’s work on drums here, and he delivers a solo at the end. “Song For Anne” begins in a rather dark place, then opens into a more peaceful landscape a minute or so in, and builds from there. This piece was written for Margaret Slovak’s sister, and it is followed by another track inspired by her sister, who died from a drug overdose at the age of 44. In “Forty-Four” is a sense of loneliness and uncertainty, her guitar looking both inward and outward for answers, for understanding. It is a moving solo guitar piece. “Courage, Truth And Hope” is a title that stands out for me, because all three of those things are in somewhat short supply these days, being completely absent from the Republican Party. This track starts off slowly, easing in, and then takes on a certain joy. The trio then delivers a cool, playful blues number, “Carrot Cake Blues,” which features some fantastic work on bass. “Ballad For Brad,” the album’s title track, was written for her husband, who has been battling cancer. It begins with some beautiful, thoughtful, gentle work on guitar, and grows from there. “Thirty-Three” also features some beautiful guitar work. And “Will You Ever Know?” features a good lead on bass. By the way, the striking artwork on the album’s cover was also done by Margaret Slovak. ”

— Michael Doherty: MICHAEL'S MUSIC LOG - May 26, 2022

A jazz guitarist equally at home playing electric and nylon-string acoustic instruments, Slovak traveled to New York, where she lived before moving to Austin a decade ago, to record this enchanting instrumental set with bassist Harvie S and drummer Michael Sarin. “Ballad for Brad” is a comeback of sorts: A 2003 car accident injured her right hand, arm and shoulder, requiring surgeries plus years of recuperation and relearning. Slovak says she wrote some of the songs for loved ones, including her late sister on “Song for Anne” and “Forty-Four,” and her husband, former American-Statesman writer Brad Buchholz, for whom the album and its title track are named. There’s also “Courage, Truth and Hope,” a tribute to legendary journalist and political commentator Bill Moyers.”

— Peter Blackstock: AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN - June 9. 2022

A jazz guitarist equally at home playing electric and nylon-string acoustic instruments, Slovak traveled to New York, where she lived before moving to Austin a decade ago, to record this enchanting instrumental set with bassist Harvie S and drummer Michael Sarin. “Ballad for Brad” is a comeback of sorts: A 2003 car accident injured her right hand, arm and shoulder, requiring surgeries plus years of recuperation and relearning. Slovak says she wrote some of the songs for loved ones, including her late sister on “Song for Anne” and “Forty-Four,” and her husband, former American-Statesman writer Brad Buchholz, for whom the album and its title track are named. There’s also “Courage, Truth and Hope,” a tribute to legendary journalist and political commentator Bill Moyers.”

— Dee Dee McNeil: WORD PRESS REVIEW - June, 2022

Ballad for Brad; The Margaret Slovak Trio. For those of you not in the know, Jazz guitarist Margaret Slovak’s comeback album after overcoming major physical problems caused by a car accident is a quietly inventive trio set filled with original heartfelt compositions and subtle creativity. Joined by bassist Harvie S and drummer Michael Sarin, Margaret Slovak displays a personal style on both nylon string and electric guitars, performing ten of her colorful originals. Back in 2003 Margaret Slovak, an up-and-coming guitarist with great potential and her own sound, was seriously hurt in a car accident that damaged her right hand, arm, shoulder and brachial plexus. After many operations and years of struggle, she is now well on her way to making a successful comeback. Ballad for Brad, her long awaited fourth album as a leader, features the guitarist in top form in a trio with bassist Harvie S and drummer Michael Sarin. The project is named after her beloved husband Brad Buchholz who has had a longtime struggle with cancer. Margaret Slovak contributed all ten compositions and, while the tempos are generally laidback and the improvisations are thoughtful, the music is filled with creative ideas and telepathic interplay by the trio. 1. Again (4:29) 2. Flowers for Marie (6:52) 3. The Answers Within (4:18) 4. Song for Anne (5:57) 5. Forty-Four (2:56) 6. Courage, Truth and Hope (5:23) 7. Carrot Cake Blues (4:47) 8. Ballad for Brad (5:44) 9. Thirty-Three (7:31) 10. Will You Ever Know? (4:08) The album opens with the harmonically jazz waltz of Again and the compassionate ballad Flowers for Marie and are then seamlessly followed up with the enthusiastic hipsway of The Answer Within, before we are given two songs dedicated to Margaret’s late sister: the aching Song for Anne (which celebrates her life) and the soberly subdued Forty-Four. Up next is the ornate, yet pensively flourishing Courage, Truth and Hope (a tribute to journalist Bill Moyers) and that is itself backed by the playful nature found within Carrot Cake Blues (where the trio get to indulge in some medium-tempo swing blues), the quietly puckish title track Ballad for Brad, this wholly heartfelt album rounding out on the bowed bass-led Thirty- Three (courtesy of Harvie S), coming to a close on the smoothly skittish, yet always controlled and accessible melodies within Will You Ever Know? Margaret Slovak, who is originally from Denver, started on the guitar when she was 11. By the time she was 14 she was already composing and two years later she began playing professionally. She graduated from the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. In 1988 she moved to New York City where she led her own group for five years and recorded For the Moment (which was released years later in 2007), a set of eight of her original songs with a quartet that included pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Michael Sarin. Margaret moved to Portland, Oregon in 1993 where she recorded Undying Hope, performing her originals as a solo guitarist. She toured with her quartet (which included drummer Bob Moses), performing in Germany, the Czech Republic, Canada and throughout the United States. Despite the injuries suffered during the 2003 car accident, she was able to release New Wings, a set of solo and duet pieces and spent 2008-2012 back in New York City. In addition, since 1994 Margaret has performed for patients in cancer treatment centers, hospitals and hospice. Now after many surgeries and a successful recovery, Margaret Slovak (who currently lives in Austin, Texas) is realizing her potential. Ballad for Brad, which most are saying is her finest recording to date, serves as the perfect introduction to her musical talents. ”

— Anne Carlini: EXCLUSIVE MAGAZINE - June 5, 2022

MARGARET SLOVAK TRIO/Ballad for Brad: The electric jazz guitarist is finally primed for a comeback album after a crippling car accident that derailed and rising and promising career. With another appearance of Harvie S who is turning up everywhere these days in the background, this set of smart originals is a warm and welcoming entrée into the after hours club you want to join. Solid stuff from a cat that’s back.”

— Chris Spector: MIDWEST RECORD - May, 2022

Undertones - MARGARET SLOVAK QUARTET: For the Moment. Recorded in 1989 with pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Michael Sarin, this previously unreleased gem showcases guitarist Margaret Slovak’s delicate, deliberate lines, warm tone and lyrical touch along with her painterly compositional style. The introspective solo guitar piece “Twice” and luminous quartet numbers like “Charissa” and “Face of a Face” show an early Pat Metheny influence while the probing “November or April” and swinging title track are in the Jim Hall-John Abercrombie camp.”

Bill Milkowski: JAZZTIMES - January 2009