Better The Second time Around. Naxos Jazz has spent the last three years building a solid base of recording artists. Evidence of this is found in the two most recent releases by The Los Angeles Jazz Quartet and bassist Ron McClure. Both artists have previous debuted on the label with the LAJQ’s Look To The East (Naxos Jazz 86009) and The Ron McClure Quartet’s Pink Cloud (Naxos Jazz 86003). These first releases were firmly steeped in Hard Bop/Mainstream and were among the more assessable of the first round of Naxos Jazz Releases.
Conversation Piece. The LAJQ returns to the Naxos fold a recording every bit as smooth and seamless as their previous release. It again has a mixture of originals and standards strained through their guitar-based tenor quartet. The lack of a piano in the rhythm provides this band with its unique sound. Tonescapes might be the best way to describe the timbre of this band. Larry Koonse deft guitar and direction provide an ethereal canvas upon which the remaining members aurally paint their vision. Monk’s “’Round Midnight” is a case in point. After a traditional introduction, the band impressionistically brushes over the merest hint of the chords from bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz to reconfigure this standard. Retaining many of the devices from memorable performances, the LAJQ solidifies the late-night feeling exuded by this piece. Likewise for the remainder of the disc. Other highlights include the 15-bar minor blues “Blues for Old Friends”. Conversation Piece is a first-rate, straight-ahead effort.
Double Triangle. Pink Cloud found Ron McClure in a quartet setting. That quartet has expanded to a sextet reminiscent of those great Jazz Messengers incarnations with Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, and Lee Morgan respectively providing the reed and brass components to the traditional rhythm section. The performance on Double Triangle smacks of an empathetic cohesion between band members. Ron McClure leads his band of merry men in pure ensemble playing. The ubiquitous Tim Hagans joins McClure on Trumpet and Flugelhorn, making his presence felt on all tunes. Billy Hart provides a polyrhythmic bedrock supporting the rest of the rhythm section, thereby supporting the soloists. This music is decidedly Hard Bop in nature, executed with a comfortable certainty.
Double Triangle and Conversation Piece validate the direction of Naxos Jazz by proving that the budget jazz label can hold on to the talent they have nurtured. With artist dedication like this and with consistently fine music like these two discs, Naxos Jazz steps into the new century with a sure footing.
Track Listing (Double Triangle:Blues for Old Friends; Glimpse; ‘Round Midnight; Time Remembered; With A Song In My Heart; Tribute; All Things Waltz; Close Your Eyes; A Thank You. (Total Playing Time 72:45).
Personnel (Double Triangle):Chuck Manning: Tenor Saxophone; Larry Koonse: Guitar; Darek Oleszkiewicz: Bass; Kevin Tullius: Drums.
Track Listing (Double Triangle):In flight; Night Bird; Con Alma; Thunder; More Than A Notion; Let Freedom Ring; Minor Spree; Maya; April in Nimes; We’ll Be Together Again. (Total Playing Time 66:50).
Personnel (Double Triangle):Ron McClure: Bass, Tim Hagens: Trumpet; Conrad Herwig: Trombone; Rich Perry: Tenor Saxophone; Marc Copland: Piano; Billy Hart: Drums.