"RUSSELL GUNN PLAYS MILES"
I have been a staunch fan of trumpeter Russell Gunn beginning with the release of "Blues on the DL."
This, his sixth on Highnote, is no reason to cease the admiration due this talented young star. The liner notes state this is not his working band, but the sound and bandstand empathy belie that statement. Of the utmost importance is the fact Gunn plays an open trumpet and, unlike Miles Davis, eschews the Harmon mute.
Of the eight tracks, six are Davis compositions, one, "Footprints," was written by Wayne Shorter. Although Gunn doesn't try to sound like Davis, there are similarities, more philosophically than tonally. They both use subtleties and both make use of space to pause. "Blue in Green" is a prime example. Pianist Orrin Evans solo is beautiful and important.
The one Gunn composition is "New, New Blues," a loping funky blues with a definite old school sound, which proves, I guess, what goes around comes around.
"SKETCHES OF SPAIN Y MARS"
The highlight of this tribute to the Latin side of Miles Davis is the 25-minute track of the title tune.
Trombonist Conrad Herwig leads his nonette through four moving tracks in a band crammed with leading exponents of Latin music. They include trumpeter Brian Lynch, alto saxophonist Paquito D' Rivera, flutist Dave Valentin, baritone saxophonist Mario Rivera, pianist Edsel Gomez, drummer Bobby Ameen, bassist John Benitez and percussionist Richie Flores.
All of the above get solo time on "Sketches." Lynch's is particularly inventive, using a mute as he plumbs the theme to its full extent beautifully. Of course there is an interlude of martial music, which transports the listener to a virtual Spanish bullring.
Paquito D'Rivera follows with a gorgeous alto solo that changes in mood and tempo with great effect. The pianist, Gomez, solos next with another mood and time shifting effort sprinkled with powerful runs and super emphatic chording. Mario Rivera is sensitive and macho on his turn with his usual big tone.
"FROM THE HEART…"
Don't you dare try to sell Grady Tate short or in any way think you can keep him confined to a drum kit.
After drumming for such greats as Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Count Basie, Stan Getz and other top-drawer jazz acts, Tate began stepping up and onto the microphone with excellent results.
This release, recorded live at New York's Blue Note showcases his ample vocal skills. Although rhythm infuses his delivery, melody is not lost on tunes like "Lush Life" and "It Might As Well Be Spring." On the former, he is accompanied by pianist Bill Charlap only. Tate carries the classic in fine fashion. However, his major strengths rest with rhythm tunes like "You Are My Sunshine," "Everybody Loves My Baby," and "Little Black Samba."
In addition to the formidable Charlap, bassist Jay Leonhardt, saxophonist Bill Easley, trumpeter Glen Drews and drummer Dennis Mackrel are excellent in support.