Bassist Avery Sharpe, a long-time collaborator with legendary pianist McCoy Tyner, releases Dragon Fly
on his own JKNM Records. Joined by pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs, drummer Winard Harper, and two special guests, Chico Freeman and Jeri Brown, the album prominently features Sharpe's multiple skills as leader and soloist. The album's opening number, "Oh No!", sounds very much like Oscar Peterson's trio, with Gumbs' frenetic piano anchored nicely by Sharpe and Harper. The second tune, "Swingfield," a dedication to his hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, is a gentler melody with Brown's vocal accompaniment and Freeman's tenor work providing greater depth to the group's sound.
The title track begins and ends on a schizophrenic rhythm, with a much more focused and melodic center. The action is soothed yet again on "Protect Me," with Sharpe's bass work sounding very guitar-like and featured heavily upfront. A capable and delicate soloist, Sharpe finds specific spaces and certain moods that soothe as well as engage the mind. He allows himself several of these soloing features on Dragon Fly, as heard on "All About You," and "Sweet Georgia Brown." Pianist Gumbs and drummer Harper do similar wonders in supporting and maintaining the group's intricate motions.
Vocalist Jeri Brown enjoys a seamless integration into the group on "My Favorite Things," a song she captures with sultry finesse. She is also highlighted on the more percussive "Change." The album's remaining tunes, a slightly agitated "Now That's What I'm Talkin' About," post bop advancements with Freeman on "Evolution," and a multidimensional "Trilogy," are equally enjoyable.
Personnel: Avery Sharpe: bass; Winard Harper: drums; Onaje Allan Gumbs: piano; Chico Freeman:
tenor sax; Jeri Brown: vocals.