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The Boston-based quartet known as Gypsy Schaeffer is named after an establishment located in Storyville, the New Orleans red light district, around the turn of the century which claims Jelly Roll Morton as an employee. I don't suspect that any other musical ensemble will be appropriating a similar name. Three members of the group are from New Jersey and they all gravitated towards Beantown for post-graduate education purposes. The piano-less group is making its recording debut here and offers twelve original tunes from the penn of altoist Andy Voelker. The liner notes advises that the compositions range from "hard bop to Latin, groove, and some more avant-garde." These untrained ears heard only the hard bop and avant-garde.
Several of these mid-tempo and ballad compositions reminded me of the tunes on the Jackie McLean series of recordings in the early 60's, beginning with Destination Out. To that end, the standout performance that I hear is from trombonist Joel Yennior. His buttery tone fits right in with a Grachan Moncur-type performance from these Blue Note dates. On his solos and reading of the line, Yennior shows a clear melodic bent despite any free jazz implications that the individual song might feature. Andy Voelker, the alto player, is given a large percentage of solo space and is featured in both straight-ahead and free jazz settings, sometimes combining the two within the same composition.
"What's the Deal?" and "De-Training" are both mainstream bop tracks that sound fine. The one selection that has Latin aspirations, "I Want to go to Havana," is described as a "13/4 descarga" with bassist Perez playing an ostinato line followed by the rest of the group, but I would be hesitant to label this anything Latin. Voelker's free solo clearly puts it into the stratosphere. The two ballads, "Hornet's Nest" and "Turning Point" have attractive lines, with "Point" being a straight reading of the melody with no solo time and "Nest" being taken outside by Voelker. The altoist's performance, on mainstream solos, is impressive, incorporating the vocabulary of the 1960s bebop masters.
As much as I miss a piano in a rhythm plus horns combo, Gypsy Schaeffer does have something to say. My suggestion would be not to mix the inside and outside jazz on the same composition. All of these musicians have experience playing in the Boston music scene, including work with the Either/Orchestra. The liner notes are written by Boston saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase.
Track Listing: What's the Deal?, Hornet's Nest, Joisey Boys' Shuffle, I Want to Go to Havana, Turning Point, The Red Sun, De-Training, Difference of Opinion, Who's for Edward?, Lovesick Thoughts, Walk the Walk, Flying Herman
Personnel: Andy Voelker,alto sax; Joel Yennior, trombone; Edward Perez, bass; Chris Punis,drums.