Craig W. Hurst joined All About Jazz in 2001
Professor of Music, University of Wisconsin - Waukehsa, trumpet player, and music lover.
Quintology , the newest release by the Greg Hopkins Quintet, in many respects is a quintessentially exemplary jazz recording. The CD provides an aural snapshot of a veteran group of highly skilled musicians in an environment of long-term familiarity, creating communally made music. That the New England-based Greg Hopkins Quintet has been performing together for going on twenty years is reflected in not only how even the most technically challenging levels of musical difficulty are made to sound near effortless, but also how musicians' efforts congeal in the creation of a single musical product as though they are of one mind.
The experience of the group also shines forth in the high quality of the recording and the high level of musicianship, creative composition and improvisation. Of the ten tunes on the CD, nine are originals penned by Hopkins, and all nine are definitely very creative, thought provoking and satisfying compositions. For example, the opening tune, the title cut "Quintology," is a great starter with an up-tempo samba feel and a catchy head. A very effective part of the tune is the collective improvisation between Hopkins and tenor saxophonist Bill Pierce at the end of the head. Often found toward the end of a "blowing" section of a tune, the contrapuntal interplay woven by Hopkins and Pierce serves as an effective send-off for Hopkins' solo. As a soloist, Hopkins is firmly rooted in the bop tradition, filling his solos with many ear catching twists and turns that contribute to the melodic and harmonic tension and relief that make listening to improvised music an aesthetically satisfying experience.
The idea of melodic contrapuntal interplay is carried even further in the finely crafted second tune, "Boon Moon," where trumpet, tenor saxophone and guitar weave a complex texture of sound all firmly grounded by the drums and bass. Tenor saxophonist Bill Pierce shines on "Hidden Agenda," the third tune. Like Hopkins, Pierce is very much a modern bop oriented player with great command of his instrument. "Waltz for Charlie" is a nice metrical change of pace with a lighter groove than the previous tunes and it sets up a great contrast for the walking bass opening of "Double Talk (for KD)," a tune that brings to mind some of the laid back tunes of Benny Golson and Horace Silver. Also on this tune, guitarist Mick Goodrick steps into the spotlight with a great improvised solo. Goodrick's guitar also fills a prominent role with the recurring riff in the opening of the tune "Scooter." "The Pignoli Letters" is another slower tempo tune that still smolders. Pierce's husky tenor contrasts very nicely to Hopkins' mellow flugelhorn, and again guitarist Goodrick supplies an enjoyable and melodic solo.
The only tune on the CD not penned by Greg Hopkins is the Rube Bloom/Johnny Mercer composition "Here's To My Lady," a catchy and upbeat tune. "Bas Relief," which follows, is another down tempo work that contrasts well with and sets up the barn-burner "Crackdown," the final cut on the CD. The Greg Hopkins Quintet is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys straight-ahead bop-oriented hard swinging jazz.
Track listing: Quintology, Boon Moon, Hidden Agenda, Waltz for Charlie, Double Talk (for KD), Scooter, The Pignoli Letters, Here's To My Lady, Bas Relief, Crackdown
Personnel: Greg Hopkins (trumpet and flugelhorn), Bill Pierce (tenor saxophone), Mick Goodrick (guitar), Jim Stinnett (bass), Gary Chaffee (drums)
Visit Greg Hopkins on the web at www.greghopkins.net .
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