It is refreshing to know that our Armed Forces provide a safe haven in today’s hectic music world for talented musicians to perform and write music. Ample evidence of the dedication to jazz these men and women have is present on Graham Breedlove’s first CD for Summit Records, Coming Home.
A trumpet player with an exquisite tone and provocative harmonic ideas, Graham Breedlove came out of an area rich in jazz heritage. Growing up in Louisiana, Breedlove received his bachelor in music from Louisiana State University. Subsequently he attended Indiana University’s prestigious jazz studies program under the longtime tutelage of jazz educator extraordinaire David Baker (who contributes the liner notes to his former student’s album).
With a lineup of “service band” cats, Breedlove surrounds himself with his fellow band members from the U.S. Army Blues (the Army’s premier jazz big band). Equally creative and inventive individuals, Breedlove’s sidemen complement his masterful technique and beautiful sound in creating excellent cohesiveness as an ensemble. Drummer Steve Fidyk’s stick work is remarkable and his rhythmic intensity propels the soloists into equally impressive rhythmic forays. Pianist Tony Nalker and bassist Jim Roberts ably hold chord-structure down and at times head “outside” giving the ensemble opportunities to be very creative and new. Breedlove’s group just goes to show how effective it can be to record with musicians you play with regularly.
Whether it’s on a mellow ballad like “Inner Beauty” or an up-tempo modern composition like “Grant Street,” Breedlove exhibits great control and cranks out some head-turning melodic ideas. All the compositions except “Buhaina” are from Breedlove’s pen. He makes wonderful use of the instruments’ colors in beautiful melodies such as the Latin-tinged “Coming Home” where he adeptly combines soprano sax, flugelhorn, and trombone.
Look out, sax players! Equally talented, with a modern approach out of the Shorterian school of thought, is saxophonist Joe Henson. Henson’s contributions to the ensemble are indispensable and his ability to sound not only like a dedicated tenor player, but also an alto and soprano player, is admirable and hard to come by these days. Check out his logical construction of solos and technically impressive solo ideas on “Perseverance” and the title track, “Coming Home.”
Matt Niess is the closest to a recognizable name on the album. The heady trombonist is heavily grounded in bebop and proves himself a valuable soloist despite the instrument’s limitations. Not surprising since Niess leads the Capital Bones, a trombone quintet with rhythm section, in which Fidyk is also drummer.
Overall Coming Home has a lot to offer melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically. It also exposes Breedlove’s talent as a composer/arranger. When David Baker writes such shining liner notes from the bottom of his heart, you know the record is going to be good.
Personnel: Graham Breedlove - Trumpet, Flugelhorn;
Joseph Henson - Tenor, Alto, and Soprano Saxophones;
Matt Niess - Trombone;
Dave Brown - Baritone Saxophone (on 8);
Steve Fidyk - Drums.
Tony Nalker - Piano.