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Unlike many all-star groups Grand Slam succeedsthey are more than just a jam band. They play a repertoire (Hall and Lovano tunes) suited to this band. They sound rehearsed, and they interact with each other. There is no sense of "I'll coast while you do your thing, and you get of my way when I'm up."
Sonically Grand Slam recalls the early 60's Sonny Rollins band ( The Bridge ) in which Hall also played, but this band plays more adventurous music and is more together as a unit. Hall has evolved, and Nash and Mraz are simply better, more sympathetic musicians than their predecessors. Like Rollins Lovano tends to get it going without a piano feeding him chords. Hall sometimes plays that role, but more often he comments or accents behind Lovano, plays counterpoint, or plays in unison. He simulates a steel pan sound in the accompaniment to "Say Hello to Calypso." And he leaves space.
As he has over the last 15 years Hall continues to grow. He explores his instrument more fully. His solos are unpredictable, advanced rhythmically, in the moment, and full of interesting ideasthey are truly spontaneous compositions. Lovano, an effective complement to Hall, improvises with an earthier, but equally musical feel. He plays 4 different reed instruments with tenor as his most expressive voice. His alto (Conn low B) is not overly distinguishable from his tenor aurally, but he approaches the instruments dissimilarly. He is more grounded and plays with more depth on tenor while his alto lines tend to feel more "experimental"there is a sense of Eric Dolphy's yearning for one thing.
Mraz and Nash take occasional worthy solos (Nash's intro on "Blackwell's Message" is particularly apt.), but they realize their potentials creatively as accompanists and as equal participants in the ensemble.
The compositions are strong, varied pieces that reveal the many sides of this uncompromising group.
Track Listing: Slam (Hall), Chelsea Rendezvous (Lovano), Border Crossing (Hall), Say Hello to Calypso (Hall), Blackwell's Message (Lovano), All Across the City (Hall), Feel Free (Lovano)
Personnel: Jim Hall -guitar, Joe Lovano - tenor, alto, soprano, clarinet, George Mraz - bass, Lewis Nash - drums