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How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
For alto saxophonist Andy Fusco, Out of the Dark is really a "coming out" party in the sense that it's his debut for Criss Cross and it also provides his best recorded moments yet to date. A late bloomer, Fusco started to make a name for himself back in the early '80s when he was a member of the Buddy Rich band that also included Walt Weiskopf at the time. In later years, he would settle down to raise a family and work as a college jazz educator. Then, a few years ago, Weiskopf put him to work on a couple of his Criss Cross dates and later returned the favor for Fusco's first session as a leader, Big Man Blues done for Double-Time Records.
The alliance with Weiskopf has been a fruitful one in the sense that Fusco's approach, based in large part on the bebop of Charlie Parker and the more avant leanings of Jackie McLean, has developed the same kind of edge that marks him as a substantial soloist. The opening title track is a Weiskopf original which Fusco and lead trumpeter Joe Magnarelli execute with the deceptive ease of tying your shoes in the morning. Pianist Joe Weiskopf is as resourceful and adept a player as his brother and he elevates the entire session with his shrewd comping and consummate soloing. Rounding things out, not much more need be said about bassist Peter Washington and drummer Billy Drummond except to add that they've become the modern day masters that all up-and-coming players will be judged by in the future.
A thoroughly enchanting program presents Fusco and company in a number of different lights as is wise for a recording by one still new to the majority of the jazz audience. Probably the centerpiece of the whole work is a piano-less take on "It's You or No One" that leaves Fusco room to develop a seductive story marked by his bell-like tone. Magnarelli's "Epitaph for Sal Amico" is a gorgeous melody that has all the possibilities of becoming a modern day standard. And speaking of standards, each one selected here is delivered with a different twist that retains the flavor of the original while also providing new sustenance to work with. Case in point, a bossa updating of J.J. Johnson's "Lament" that is as cool and relaxing as a summer breeze.
As has become de rigueur with Criss Cross, through Out of the Dark we can be grateful for being exposed to yet another substantial jazz man who is on the rise and will hopefully be bringing us much more great music in the coming years.
Track Listing: Out of the Dark, Song for Andy, It's You or No One, Epitaph for Sal Amico, Lament, Pritzin', You've Changed, 2286 Seventh Avenue, You Don't Know What Love Is (65:24)
Personnel: Andy Fusco- alto saxophone, Joe Magnarelli- trumpet, Joel Weiskopf- piano, Peter Washington- bass, Billy Drummond- drums