Philadelphia has always been something of a breeding ground for tenor saxophonistsJohn Coltrane, Benny Golson and Archie Shepp to name a few. Adding to the city's rich jazz heritage is saxophonist/composer Tom Tallitsch who, although an Ohio native, has established himself as a revered member of the Philly scene. Medicine Man, Tallitsch's second release as a leader, is a soulful collection of original mainstream jazz, featuring an expansive quintet, rounded off by vibraphone, guitar, bass and drums.
Tallitsch blows his tenor with confidence, at times hearkening the vibrancy of Joe Henderson, all the while showcasing an artistic voice, curious and exploring. Not one to waste notes, Tallitsch maintains strong melodic sensibilities during soft-spoken ballads ("Yellow"), up-tempo explorations ("Three Flights Down") and soulful excursions ("Ceasefire").
Sharing the solo spotlight with Tallitsch is guitarist Victor Baker and vibraphonist Tony Miceli. Baker's lyrical lines, most notably on "Yellow" and "La Tortuga," are highly original, and refreshingly void of typical guitar trappings. The dynamic guitarist also demonstrates a piano-like approach to comping that is sparse and convincing. Miceli solos with rapid-fire execution ("Three Flights Down") and a determination to keep things swinging ("Good Friday").
Drummer Dan Monaghan plays with an explosive edge, dropping unexpected flourishes of sound over sensible time-keeping. Bassist Paul Gehman lays a solid foundation with a punchy, rounded tone. The drum and bass double-time groove against Tallitsch's laid-back lines on the disc's closer "Three Flights Down (Reprise)," is a powerful show-stopper.
With Medicine Man Tallitsch demonstrates his potential to stand above the innumerable tenor saxophone sound-a-likes plaguing the jazz scene. With the aid of his like-minded musical brothers, he has produced a clever, stimulating session.
Personnel: Tom Tallitsch: tenor saxophone; Tony Miceli: vibraphone; Victor Baker: guitar; Paul Gehman: acoustic bass; Dan Monaghan: drums.