John McNeil: East Coast Cool (2006)
Comprised mostly of McNeil originals, East Coast Cool is overall a well-balanced album. There are through-composed pieces like the laid-back modal "A Time to Go, with a beautiful melody in the horns, as well as harmonically or metrically free numbers, and tracks that are both in turn. Near the end of "Internal Hurdles, the group emerges from some far-flung free playing to sneak back into the theme. The seamless transition announces that you're in the hands of a highly skilled ensemble.
For this project McNeil assembled some top-notch instrumentalists. His quartet features Allan Chase's brawny but acrobatic baritone, Matt Wilson's nimble drumming (mainly with brushes) and John Hebert's rich bass. Standout tracks include the gentle ballad "Wanwood, featuring one of McNeil's more understated yet inspired solos; and "Waltz Helios, whose quirky two-note theme alternates with more flowing melodies. On "Delusions, Wilson begins a snare drum roll almost imperceptibly with the brushes and builds a wonderfully controlled crescendo nearly a minute long.
Track Listing: Deadline; A Time to Go; Brother Frank; Bernie's Tune; Duet #1; Delusions; Wanwood; Internal Hurdles; Duet #2; Waltz Helios; Schoenberg's Piano Concerto; GAB.
Personnel: John McNeil: trumpet; Allan Chase: baritone saxophone; John Hebert: bass; Matt Wilson: drums, slide whistle.
Record Label: OmniTone
Style: Modern Jazz