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John McNeil: East Coast Cool (2006)

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John McNeil: East Coast Cool How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

The music called "West Coast Cool" was well-represented by the mid-fifties Gerry Mulligan/Chet Baker Quartet, with Mulligan on the baritone saxophone and Baker on trumpet, backed by bass and drums. Working without a chording instrument—piano or guitar—was quite innovative at the time. The sound, in contrast to the sharper-edged bop of the day, had a loose, fluid feeling, a "cool" flow.

Trumpeter John McNeil's resume includes stints with the Horace Silver Quintet and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, as well as work with Mulligan himself. McNeil was hired to write arrangements for a Mulligan truibute band after the baritone saxophonist/composer's death; and what better way to get inside the music.

McNeil's association with Mulligan and the man's music inpired East Coast Cool. With the same piano-less quartet instrumentation—in this case McNeil on trumpet, Alan Chase on baritone sax, John Hebert on bass, and the ubiquitous Matt Wilson on drums—the West Coast Cool sound gets an infusion of East Coast freedom, a bit more of an edge, and a slightly higher level of intensity and abstraction.

McNeil, who wrote most of the tunes here, has more bite in his trumpet tone compared to Baker's. He and Chase blow loose unison lines that melt into wandering solos and sinuous conversations, much the way Baker and Mulligan did it. A big difference is in the bass/drum approach of Hebert and Wilson; they are more integrated into the quartet, more vibrant, adding much to the more modern sound of the band.

East Coast Cool freshens the Mulligan/Baker cool sound with an East Coast edge.

Track Listing: Deadline, A Time to Go, Brothr Frank, Bernie's tune, Duet #1, Delusions, Wanwood, Internal Hurdles, Duet #2, Waltz Helios, Schoenberg's Piano Concerto, GAB

Personnel: John McNeil: trumpet; Alan Chase: baritone saxophone; John Hebert: bass; Matt Wilson: drums

Record Label: OmniTone

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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