Tyrone Brown: Suite For John A. Williams (2005)
Though this disc would never win any awards for longevityit clocks in at under 35 minutesthe fact that the music has such substance more than makes up for it. On the other hand, if there was more of it, the disc could possibly appear on some of those year-end lists.
As a bassist himself, Brown has no little appreciation of the qualities inherent in other instruments in the string family, and his writing for the string quartet heard here, with two violas instead of the usual two violins, has the air of someone who knows also how to provide springboards for improvisation. Bobby Zankel and Adam Williams might well have thought the same, for there's evidence of it in abundance here, and Zankel in particular might well have turned in his best performances on record.
That said, this is a far more integrated date than many similar efforts in the past. Here there is no showcasing of a virtuoso soloist with the strings merely working in accompaniment. Instead the soloists seem to have a knack for not losing sight of the writing over which they're projectingat the same time as they do a whole lot more than merely embellish the lines of the strings.
Writer John A. Williams, to whom the music is dedicated, makes a spoken word appearance on the sixth movement of the suite, and whilst his recitation of his own work takes the listener in, it does have the effect of distracting attention from the music, and the fact that the opposite is equally true ensures that almost a third of the disc's playing time makes for a frustrating experience.
Indeed frustration is perhaps the word that best sums up the experience of this disc in its entirety, especially in view of the fact that the nature of jazz recording in the early years of the 21st Century might not necessarily bring these musicians together in a studio again. What's here simply oozes class, but the significant qualifications discussed above keep this release from being a minor classic.
Track Listing: 1st Movement: The Man Who Cried I Am; 2nd Movement: This Is My Country Too; 3rd Movement: Captain Blackman; 4th Movement: Clifford's Blues: 5th Movement: Night Song; 6th Movement: Readings From "Safari West."
Personnel: Bobby Zankel: alto saxophone; Melissa Ortega Locati: violin; Beth Dzwil: viola; Nina Cottman: viola; Ron Lipscomb: cello; Adam Williams: guitar; Tyrone Brown: Bass; Craig McIver: drums.