During the course of Excursions, his third disc as a leader for the Criss Cross imprint, Jim Rotondi continually finds ways of breathing new life into the straight-ahead, three horns and rhythm format. Rotondi has written and chosen a variety of tunes ranging from up and medium tempo swingers (“Angel Eyes,” “Shortcake,” “Little Karin”) to a bossa nova (“Excursions”), to ballads (“Little B’s Poem,” “What Is There To Say”). Further, he writes and utilizes arrangements by the band members that strike a balance between the ensemble passages and soloists. For example, with a march-like introduction and punchy statement of the melody above a brutally fast tempo, pianist David Hazeltine’s interpretation of “Angel Eyes” is filled with tension and serves as a stimulus for a string of rousing solos.
Rotondi’s comrades for the date are (with the exception of master drummer Kenny Washington) all members of One For All, a cooperative ensemble which has been mining a similar vein for the better part of a decade. Without exception, trombonist Steve Davis, tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, bassist Peter Washington, and Hazeltine, bring to the music their individualist takes on the vocabulary of established jazz practices.
As for Rotondi’s playing, his full, bright sound on trumpet and flugelhorn and ability to articulate his ideas in a steady, even flow, regardless of the mood or tempo, makes listening to every solo a genuine pleasure. In Kenny Washington, he’s found an ideal musical partner, whose shifting rhythms within the context of bedrock time, capacity to change with or influence the direction of a soloist, and keen sense of dynamics, is one of the record’s strengths. Another memorable aspect of the disc is Hazeltine’s comping behind all of the soloists. He consistently feeds them a devilishly clever combination of chords and single note patterns, all of which enhance their efforts. On cuts such as “Little B’s Poem” and “Excursions,” Davis and Alexander in particular seem to be challenged and stimulated by Hazeltine’s harmonic sallies.
Track List:Shortcake; Little B’s Poem; Excursions; What Is There To Say; Angel Eyes; Little Karin; Jim’s Waltz; Fried Pies.