John McNeil: This Way Out (2004)
"Mi Tio," the opener, is one of several pieces with an up-tempo, tight ensemble melody displaying the dexterity of the musicians. The whirling head sets up individual horn solos and dynamic trading between them. "Last Minute," with its outstanding fast-walking bass line, and "Skeeter" are in a similar vein, with kinetic unison melodies.
The influences of the Spanish recording location are evident on "A la Orilla," a quasi-tango rhythm set up by the bass and marching snare drum. "My Taxi" has a loping groove and segues from Benitez's contribution, "Picasso View," which features playful syncopated horn lines over a fractured rhythm. The saxophonist's other contributions, "Because of You" and "Flor de Viento," exhibit a penchant for catchy melodies and straight ahead grooves. In the former, McNeil plays a muted solo that effectively counters the buoyant melody.
Other tunes show a moodier side. "Know Your Limits" is set around a bass vamp that allows space for the horns to play around and over, while on "What Comes After" they have long, sustained lines. The two group improvisations show a sense of humor and use of extended techniques to draw sounds from their instruments.
On This Way Out, McNeil runs the gamut from spacious and introspective to tightly wound, feel-good romps, showing why he has been so active and respected for so many years.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: Mi Tio; A la Orilla; Picasso View; My Taxi; Last Minute; What Comes After; Because of You; Know Your Limits; Skeeter; West Coast Memories; Dewey Defeats Truman; Flor de Viento.
Personnel: John McNeil: trumpet; Gorka Benitez: tenor saxophone; Giulia Valle, bass; Joe Smith: drums, percussion.
Record Label: OmniTone
Style: Modern Jazz