How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The album’s subtitle is “Featuring Rick Margitza,” and the fiery Trane tracker is very much in the thick of things on this strapping post–bop session, blowing passionately on tenor (seven selections) or soprano sax (“All the Things You Are”). Margitza takes a well–earned break only on the finale, a splendid reading by Hellmer’s trio of Leonard Bernstein / Betty Comden / Adolph Green’s wistful “Some Other Time” (from the Broadway musical On the Town ). Margitza is a vastly underrated player who, like role models Coltrane, Joe Henderson and Michael Brecker, combines exemplary technique with a fondness for exploring the tenor’s upper reaches, which he does without squealing, screeching or squawking. Hellmer, a respected writer and educator as well as pianist, comps and solos with confidence, power and dexterity, while Fremgen and Mannion keep steady time and add two more capable solo voices to the mix. Hellmer wrote “Peak Moments,” Margitza “14 Bar Blues” and the waltz “Heart of Hearts,” Fremgen the ballad “Song for Laurie,” Joel Alpers and Justin Reinhardt “Expatriate Blues.” Each of them is commendable but I can’t help favoring the time–tested standards, “All the Things,” “Alone Together,” “What Is This Thing Called Love” and “Some Other Time,” perhaps in part because they seem to uncover reserves of energy that aren’t as apparent elsewhere — but that could be illusory, as given a choice between standards and originals I almost invariably lean toward the former. In any case, the entire album is top–drawer; Hellmer, his trio and Margitza make a wonderful team and there are any number of Peak Moments to savor during their challenging discourse.
Track Listing: What Is This Thing Called Love; Peak Moments; Expatriate Blues; 14 Bar Blues; Song for Laurie; All the Things You Are; Heart of Hearts; Alone Together; Some Other Time (67:07).
Personnel: Jeff Hellmer, piano; John Fremgen, bass; Ad Mannion, drums. Guest artist