Dennis Bell Jazz NY: Then & Now (2002)
This album is subtitled A Jazz Retrospect of New York City's High School of Music & Art. Every member of this quartet graduated from these two schools in the late 1950s or mid 1990s, having since individually pursued careers in music and education. The collective resume for these players is enough to raise a few musical eyebrows per names and venues (e.g. Peter Chivily was the Stan Kenton bassist during the period when he recorded West Side Story in the early '60s).
This 73 minute album gives plenty of space to compositions by leader Dennis Bell, who contributes seven of the nine tunes as well as ample solo opportunities for all. The medium tempo blues "Skully!!!!" is an attractive classic Blue Note-type line which serves as a platform for Casey Benjamin to deliver a Jackie McLean-ish alto solo. After introspective solos by Bell and Chivily on the ballad "Dance Michele, Dance," Benjamin gets a chance to repeat with a soulful statement. On the lengthy "Pop Goes Chris," Benjamin channels a no-nonsense Joe Henderson mode through his tenor sax. The standard "Stompin' at the Savoy" features an interesting moment when the sax man suspends time for a minute when he solos unaccompanied. Throughout, Bell, Chivily and Roberson provide fine rhythm section support, with Bell comping well.
My one suggestion for the future would be to substitute a few standards and jazz compositions by other musicians in lieu of so many original tunes. Otherwise, it's a nice listen.
Track Listing: Lil d's Cakewalk, Skully!!!!, Dance Michele Dance, Pop Goes Chris, Stompin' at the Savoy, Theme for Bobby, Lover Man, Firewater, Sidra's Dream
Personnel: Dennis Bell, piano; Casey Benjamin, saxophones; Peter Chivily, bass; Stephen Roberson,drums