How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Saxophonist/composer Bruce Eskovitz makes music that is playful and appealing yet challenging and thoughtful at the same time. On an earlier recording, he paid tribute to saxophonist Sonny Rollins in a quartet setting, but here he displays his impressive composing and arranging chops in a big band setting. Eskovitz knows about intimacy and so the charts express a closeness often only achieved in smaller settings. The orchestra never sounds dense or thick, and despite the fact that the leader is an academicit's Dr. Bruce Eskovitzthe music is bright, never calling attention to itself.
The set opens with a samba in which flutes carry the melody over a driving piano and electric bass. The track has a lot going for itdazzling horn section work, smart solos by guitarist Ian Robbins and Eskovitz (on soprano) and an infectious melodic line. It ends first with a bang...! Then offers a quick, quiet release.
And speaking of Latin-ish tempos, Dr. Bruce takes that much over played standard "Invitation" and spins it south of the border. It's a clever take: with a pulsating rhythm and the brass riff providing a bed for Eskovitz, slowly and deliberately stating the famous melody atop. The effect is memorable and Eskovitz shines with a dynamic solo that deliciously revisits the colors of the theme and builds to a passionate climax without ever losing the majesty of the tune. The band subtly yet emphatically brings the song to close.
These are charts of sterling diversity there's a little of everything. The leader clearly likes Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythmsthey show up again in "Latin Fever" and "Dialogue"but there's some gospel in "One Last Time," some rousing Rollins-inspired grooves in "Just in the 'Newk' of Time," some fusion funk in Freddie Hubbard's classic "Red Clay". Of course all of this features big-band writing and arrangements that range from mellow and relaxed to powerful. And the soloists ain't bad either as they smartly interpret all that the good Doctor has prescribed!
Track Listing: Breakthrough; Damien's Dance; Invitation; Latin Fever; Detour Ahead; Just in the "Newk" of Time; Dialogue; A Walk in the Park; Red Clay; One Last Time
Personnel: Dr. Bruce Eskovitz: tenor and soprano saxophones, alto flute; Billy Kerr: alto saxophone, flute; Larry Williams,Jeff Jarvis: trumpet and flugelhorn; Andrew Lippman: trombone; Ian Robbins: guitar; Mark Balling: keyboards; Adam Cohen: basses: Angel Figueroa: percussion; Steve Barnes: drums