Here's one of those rare cases where a title is relevant to the music. As an ex-member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Valery Ponomarev's name might lead many readers to believe he has his sights firmly set on some form of hard bop heaven. But that's not the case with this programme, which takes in compositions by both Billy Strayhorn and Ornette Coleman.
The absence of a piano gives the music a wide open feel, and both Ponomarev (trumpet) and Don Braden (tenor sax)a man who seems capable of the extraordinary consistency that Hank Mobley once maintained on countless Blue Note issuesexploit the resulting space with invention and flair. Furthermore, there is ample tonal variation between them, and the resulting difference makes for effective contrast. "Party Time," a Lee Morgan original, arguably best exemplifies this; the two men negotiate the deceptively tricky lope of the melody over the bluesy foundation of bass and drums.
Ponomarev keeps attention from wandering on his fifteen-minute original "Sale On Love" by deploying of a number of devices which serve as points of inspiration for the musicians. Everything has an unforced feel, which is no mean feat in itself, and Braden in particular is at or near his substantial best.
If the absence of a piano might imply displacement, bassist Martin Zenker and drummer Jerome Jennings more than compensate for it. Ponomarev mentions the strength of Jennings' time in the accompanying booklet notes, and this is abundantly but not obtrusively clear here.
In avoiding the obvious, these musicians have made this strategic gambit sound entirely uncontrived, resulting in a set that sounds above all else like the documentation of artistic growth.
Personnel: Valery Ponomarev: trumpet; Don Braden: tenor saxophone; Martin Zenker: bass; Jerome