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Live From New York

March 2005

By Published: March 4, 2005

Charles Tolliver brought his 17-man big band to Jazz Standard for a four night stand. Kicking off the first set (Feb. 17th) with his "In The Trenches", the trumpeter blew a solo cadenza and then conducted his allstar aggregation through the powerful arrangement. Alto saxophonist James Spaulding had the first solo, a scorching extended outing, followed by the always-exciting John Hicks at the piano. The battling trumpet section of Leron Thomas, David Weiss, Winston Byrd and Chris Albert had at it next, in a blazing call and response section, followed by Ralph Peterson's exuberant drum interlude. Spaulding switched to piccolo for the cacophonous out-of-tempo overture of "On The Nile", which featured tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, trombonist Jason Jackson and Hicks and Tolliver.

The mood calmed for a lush orchestration of "Truth", showcasing bassist Cecil McBee's warm sound along with Tolliver. Spaulding, Bill Saxton and Craig Handy played flutes, blending beautifully with muted trumpets on the leader's grooving "Chedlike". The set concluded with a tour de force AfroCuban arrangement of "Suspicion" that opened with a compelling bass recital by McBee. Ralph Peterson's clave rhythm drove the band, anchored by Howard Johnson's baritone sax and the trombone section of Aaron Johnson, Barry Cooper, Jason Jackson and Clark Gayton, in the feature for Bill Saxton's deep dark tenor.

Sonny Fortune brought a new quartet into Sweet Rhythm to close out February in his regular Village venue. Joined by the young Philadelphia pianist Fareed Barron, bassist Chip Jackson and drummer Steve Johns, Fortune started off Friday night's second set on soprano saxophone with a searing version of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints", exploring the full range of the straight horn, his full bodied bottom register sounding particularly imposing. The saxophonist then picked up a cowbell and spurred Barron through an exciting solo that was replete with Tynerish flourishes. Jackson followed with a statement that demonstrated his under recognized virtuosity and Johns finished the solo cycle with an impressive percussive display before the group tastefully faded the hypnotic melody.

The set continued seamlessly with "Waynish", an original by the leader dedicated to Shorter, featuring his own distinctive relentlessly emotive alto saxophone. Barron delivered a rhythmically inspired two-handed recital and Jackson took another articulate solo before Johns traded eights with the altoist. Fortune featured his flute on "Mind Games" a pretty original song well suited for his appealing tone. The flautist blew increasingly long legato lines on the melody accompanied elegantly by the trio. He remained on flute for the finale, a tour de force rendition of his classic composition "Awakening", on which he demonstrated his unparalleled technique on the instrument, circular breathing through an unremitting five minute solo that had the audience rapt in excited amazement.

~ Russ Musto


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