Kevin Stout, formerly the trombonist and third voice with the Four Freshmen, and his lifelong buddy, tenor sax whiz Brian Booth have buffed nine originals and one standard into a Latin-hued jewel: Good Pals on the Jazzed5 Records label.
First, I've got to put a couple of myths to rest. One: Kevin Stout does not start where Maynard stops. Tales of dogs howling in agony and stuffing their paws in their ears is a gross exaggeration. Two: Brian Booth does not pull in to the Arco Station to suck on the air pump prior to a gig.
The opener, "Otie's Rhythm Swing," is a straight ahead, AABA, up-tempo cooker in which John Abraham serves up eight bars of drums before the head. Stout, Booth and pianist Joey Singer each take two choruses, portending a tightly-woven, warm and swinging set.
It seems that some jazz dates, while certainly spontaneous, leave one with the little niggle in the back of one's mind that a few guys simply showed up in the studio and called a couple of tunes. As in "Uh... How's about Green Dolphin Street? F OK? Here we go: One... Two... One Two Three Four..." The head, a couple of licks, and out. The beauty of Good Pals is that, in this reviewer's opinion, it was lovingly and meticulously crafted. Well thought-out. Rehearsed. Fine-tuned and, only then, recorded. I sense no impatience in or with the process. For example, the tunes average a little over six minutes each, with Stout's "Red, White, and Blues" clocking in at 10. This speaks to the attention given to the scaffold; the matrix, without which there is no valid sense of direction. Without which the unbearable tension that builds to the joyous release cannot evolve. Without which the artistry; the music cannot flow seamlessly.
The front line work by Stout and Booth is consistently tight with nuances that are crisp and clean. The rhythm players are given ample opportunity to stretch. Joey Singer reaffirms his pre-eminence, whether he's laying down a delicate, single-note dusting as he does on "Waltz For Natalie" or slamming fistfuls of chords into his second chorus of "Ocurrio A Mi" (written on the changes of It Could Happen To You). "High Visibility," a medium bounce written over the On A Clear Day changes showcases bassist Tom Warrington's nimble technique over Abraham's brushes. Speaking of Warrington and Abraham: my hunch is that the National Bureau of Standards calls them for Time Checks.
Like you, I've lots of music and, in the case of some pressings, I find myself spending a percentage of my time listening to a single tune. Watrous' "Fourth Floor Walkup," Bachrach's "South American Getaway," and anyone's "Dreamsville" come immediately to mind. As many times as I've played Good Pals, the cut that I revisit the most is "My One And Only Love" (arr. By Kevin Stout). In it, Stout triples on trombone, guitar and percussion and is joined by trombonists Joey Farina, Andy Newell and bass trombonist Dan Uhrich.
In the last phrase of the final chorus, the lightly-accompanied brass choir simply stops, allowing Kevin to soar alone to a sustained double G delivered with such precision, such purity, such passion as to- for a moment- stop my heart. The reading is, quite simply, how God intended the tune to be played.
Track Listing: Otie's Rhythm Swing; Por Seguro; Good Pals; Waltz For Natalie; Ocurrio A
Mi; High Visibility; Song For Geoffrey; A Confidential Infatuation; Red, White
& Blues; My One And Only Love.
Personnel: Kevin Stout, trombone; Brian Booth, tenor sax; Joey Singer, piano; Tom
Warrington, bass; John Abraham, drums.