MAXJAZZ Inaugurates their long awaited follow up to the Vocal Series with the Piano Series—and the label debut of one of their own.
Pianist Bruce Barth is a producer for MAXJAZZ. He has been instrumental in producing the highly successful Vocal Series for the label. He now steps halfway out of the sound booth and gets behind his piano to produce, with the help of an all-star cast, jazz of great complexity, thoughtfulness and sensitivity. I don't know if Mr. Barth is doing anything different, but the refinement in this music seems to elevate it to a level somewhere well-beyond what usually crosses my desk. That is saying a lot because I have listened to precious little bad music.
Barth's compositions have an old time feel while remaining strictly contemporary. "At The Ranch" evokes a "Hot Fives and Sevens" temperament in the head and middle Miles feel in the solos. This duplex philosophy is further explored in the standards "I'm Old Fashioned" and "My Shining Hour". The disc is saxophone heavy, with all but the baritone represented. Adam Kolker, who spends most of his time in the tenor chair, pulls out the bass clarinet to provide a Harry Carney/Eric Dolphy ambience. Likewise soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome adds a Coltrane flair to the whole affair. Newcomer Terell Stafford, hot off his recent Nagel Heyer release Fields of Gold proves why he is the new next-best-thing-to-sliced-bread.
All in all, East and West is a really superb offering. I look forward to then next releases in the Piano Series.
Personnel: Bruce Barth: Piano; Terell Stafford: Trumpet And Flugelhorn; Steve Wilson: Alto And Soprano Saxophones And Clarinet; Adam Kolker: Tenor Saxophone And Bass Clarinet; Sam Newsome: Soprano Saxophone; Ugonna Okegwo: Bass; Al Foster: Drums.