How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
What a delightful octet Chris Byars has put together in New York. Its straight-ahead design means that everyone has an influential voice for every performance, soloing frequently. Each artist is a standout soloist as well as a contributor for the group's cohesive voice.
Band arrangements can make the difference between a so-so rehearsal band and a memorable unit. Byars' octet benefits both from superb arranging and excellent soloing. Along with voicing that introduces creative harmony and a seamless drive, the octet's positive attitude emits intuitive sparks.
Trombonist John Mosca delivers melodic spears that sail linearly through the night, while pianist Sacha Perry pursues Monk-like twists and turns. Baritone saxophonist Mark Lopeman saunters gracefully with a forceful bottom punch, while trumpeter Richie Vitale soars high on a mellow cloud.
"Blue Gardenia" features piano in a warm recollection of jazz's harmonic invention. The arrangement holds several pleasant surprises. "All or Nothing at All" features Byars' tenor in a spirited, passionately driving solo section. His fluid approach and boundless energy prove inspiring. "Night Owls" features bassist Neal Miner and saxophonist Lopeman in a thrilling romp that sums up the band's straight-ahead character through new compositions. This piece and four others come from the pens of band members.
"The Way You Look Tonight" drives at blazing speed with brief solo stretches from everyone. It's quite a treat. The program brings timeless mainstream jazz to the forum, with fresh ideas to season the recipe just right.
Track Listing: All or Nothing at All; The Inevitable; Gnid; Manhattan Valley; In da Funhouse; Blue Gardenia; Night Owls; The Way You Look Tonight; Nancy; Conception; Village Beauty; Let's Kiss and Make Up.
Personnel: Chris Byars: tenor saxophone, flute, clarinet; Gary Pribek: alto saxophone, flute; Mark Lopeman: baritone saxophone; John Mosca: trombone; Richie Vitale: trumpet, flugelhorn; Sacha Perry: piano; Neal Miner: bass; Andy Watson: drums.