"MEANING AND MYSTERY"
This band could end up becoming one of the classic jazz quintets of the 21st century.
Led by Downbeat Magazine's Critic's Poll "trumpet" category for six years straight, Dave Douglas leads this group in a performance of his original compositions that reach a creative point far higher than the usual quintet session.
New to the band is tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin who is outstanding on "The Sheik of Things to Come," "Culture Wars" and "Elks Club." Not one to be restricted by trends, Douglas employs pianist Uri Caine on Fender Rhodes. Bassist James Genus and drummer Clarence Penn are absolute necessities to the band's heart beat.
"Blues to Steve Lacy" begins with a slow walking bass line followed by the two horns in duet leading to a muted Douglas trumpet solo. McCaslin re-enters, for a moment or two picking up the tempo and setting the stage for Caine. The two horns come together to close it out with a solemn feel. Appropriately, they end the session with "The Team," an up tempo tune where each gets a solo taste. Everyone on this team performs at the top of his game!
DAVID BERGER & THE SULTANS OF SWING
This 15-piece band led by David Berger is cast in the Count Basie mold.
It has a flock of excellent soloists like alto saxophonist Todd Bashore and trumpeter Brian "Fletch" Pareschi who team very nicely in major roles on "Do It Again." Hints of Basie abound on "Stompin' on A Riff" with Pareschi blowing a smooth plunger trumpet solo.
Vocalist Aria Hendricks stirs it up and shakes it out on "Too Marvelous for Words" with a deceivingly slow beginning before turning up the heat. She returns for the ballad "The Very Thought of You" and a later country blues shouter, " I Don't Hurt Anymore."
Bergen's composition, "Bumper Cars" is a fine and rollicking tune with a clarinet opening articulated by Dan Block. Carl Maraghi, Issac ben Ayala and Seneca Black all have a hand in steering the ride.
"DON'T GO TO STRANGERS"
When it comes to blues that are sung and not shouted, Etta Jones reigns supreme.
Her unique note bending and tonal inflections easily move from blues tunes to pop ballads here including "Yes Sir, That's My Baby," "Where or When," "If I Had You" and "On The Street Where You Live."
When she turns to the blues, she is without peer. Her treatment of "Fine and Mellow" is superior to any other I've ever heard including Billie Holiday's. On this re-released material, Jones gets great backing from pianist Richard Wyands, bassist George Duvivierk, tenorist-flutist Frank Wess and drummer Roy Haynes.
"DUES IN PROGRESS"
KEITH OXMAN/CURTIS FULLER
What a tight septet, although sometimes it's heard here as a quartet or sextet.
Co-leader Keith Oxman is an energetic tenor player with a nice tone and a superb compositional skill. His colleague, Curtis Fuller, a trombone legend is ageless, blowing strong and mellow.
There are some wonderful contrasts in the program like that between track eight, "CHOC," with a tight hard bop groove and track nine, "Thirty One For Strayhorn," a somber song for just alto and piano.
There is a lot of fine music to hear on this very creative 10-tune disc.
The leader is drummer Colin Stranahan, but the accent is not on percussion. Instead, it stresses composition, solos and unique harmonies created by the core of two saxophones, flute, piano and bass. On five tracks, an alto sax, vibes and trumpet are added.
Clearly, Stranahan has hit upon something making this a terrific addition to the current scene, moving it forward and with cool.