Rick Helzer: Face in the Mirror (2004)
In many ways this could be considered a textbook case on how to put together a good jazz record in 2005. Write a fistful of varied tunes, dedicating several of them to jazz giants of the past. Check. Connect up with a rhythm section capable of bringing out the rhythmic and dynamic nuances of the material. Check. Add a well-chosen list of guest artists who inject their own ideas and colors into the mix. Check.
Now here's where it starts to get interesting. Having each guest play on two tunes works well here, as each is able to contribute additional depth and versatility. However, the most important "rule" to watch is "when you invite a world-class musician to the table, make sure he has plenty to chew on," which is followed to a T-bone. "The Mentor" is a tasty enough appetizer for James Newton to warm up with, but the nearly twelve minute-long "Mingus Meditations" is indeed the album's tour de force. Helzer acknowledges debt to "Meditations on Integration," "Sue's Changes," and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," and Newton's performance is truly inspired.
Not that it's the album's only highlighthearing Kim Richmond's soprano soar through the changes of "Two Witnesses" is another major delightbut given that Newton himself hasn't exactly been dropping a steady stream of CDs on the market, some of his fans may need to check out this album for "Mingus Meditations" alone.
Track Listing: Fire Storms; The Mentor; Tell Your Story; Nobody's Song But Kenny's; Bell Chimes In; Two Witnesses; By His Wounds We Are Healed; He Who Is Acquainted With Sorrow; Sounds Like; Mingus Meditations; Gethsemane.
Personnel: Rick Helzer: piano; Chris Conner: bass; Duncan Moore: drums; Kim Richmond: alto, tenor saxophone; James Newton, Lori Bell: flute; Joseph Howell: clarinet; David Borgo: tenor, soprano saxophone; Derek Cannon: flugelhorn.
Record Label: Nine Winds Records
Style: Modern Jazz