The Trombone Kings: Joe Wulf Meets Dan Barrett, George Masso, Roy Williams (2003)
In December 1999, four world-class trombonists presented a spectacular concert at the Beethovenhalle in Bonn, Germany, and a few weeks later they gathered in a nearby studio to record this equally impressive album of colorful mainstream Jazz. The ringleader, Joe Wulf, hails from Germany; his playing partners are Englishman Roy Williams and two Americans, Dan Barrett and George Masso. With help from saxophonists Pierre Paquette and Hans Zähringer, trumpeter Peter Lange and a congenial rhythm section they underscore the exhilarating range of the trombone in a program consisting of three standards, captivating tunes by Buck Clayton, Duke Ellington and Count Basie, and eight well-drawn compositions by Wulf.
Did I mention that they swing? Indeed that's true but it would be hard not to swing when one is being poked and prodded by the likes of pianist Christian Nemet, bassist Bert Thompson and drummer Will Lindfors, who collectively keep the engine revved up and firing on all cylinders. In the main, however, the 'bone-meisters simply sound great, muted or open, growling or purring, shouting or whispering, alone or in tandem. Barrett and Wulf are especially persuasive on back-to-back takes of Ellington's "Just Squeeze Me," employing an assortment of mutes and other techniques to illustrate the variations in tone and temperament that accentuate the trombone's charm.
As for the album's "elder statesmen," Williams is outstanding on "Blues for My Baby" and "The Only Girl for Me," Masso likewise on "Girl," "Noodles and Slides," "Blowin" the Blues" and Basie's "The King." Besides "Squeeze Me," Wulf and Barrett are paired on Buck Clayton's "Cookin" Joe," on which Nemet, a new name to me, takes the first of his several ear-opening solos. Thompson has some quality moments on "Blues for My Baby" and "I Want to Be Alone," as does Lindfors on "Noodles and Slides" and "The King." Wulf "sings" twice (think Jimmy Rowles or Mose Allison), on "Blame It on My Youth" and "East of the Sun," with Barrett and Nemet soloing on "Youth," trumpeter Lange on "Sun." Paquette and Zähringer add weight to the ensemble and solo capably when their number is called, with Paquette (alto) featured on "I've Seen It in Your Eyes," Zähringer (with Thompson) on "I Want to Be Alone." Barrett scored the two takes of "Squeeze Me" and Wulf arranged everything else.
Trombone kings? Well, there are many claimants to that particular crown, but few with more formidable dossiers than Messrs. Wulf, Barrett and Masso. They certainly perform regally here, and their prismatic artistry warrants a deep and heartfelt bow if not an immediate coronation ceremony.
Track Listing: Cookin? Joe; In the Darkness; Blues for My Baby; Noodles & Slides; Blame It on My Youth; Blowin? the Blues; Just Squeeze Me (take 1); Just Squeeze Me (take 2); The Only Girl for Me; East of the Sun; For Susie and Bud; I?ve Seen It in Your Eyes; I Want to Be Alone; The King; This Is All I Ask (64:49).
Personnel: Joe Wulf, trombone, vocals; Dan Barrett, George Masso, Roy Williams, trombone; Pierre Paquette, alto sax, clarinet; Hans Z
Record Label: MEP