Joe Magnarelli: Persistence
The stark black and white cover photo of trumpeter Joe Magnarelli peering out at you from the cover of Persistence emits a brooding and a blandness that is light years away from the robust, enjoyable musical experience offered by the music on the disc itself.
Magnarelli, a first-call trumpeter among first-callers, leads an exciting group of other New York musicians (stars all) in eight selectionsoriginals and standardsthat are both intriguing and satisfying. There is such a sense of spontaneity and excitement in this recording that it gives the impression of being recorded live: each tune has that wonderful on-the-edge sense to it.
"Persistence," the first cut (and one of five Magnarelli originals), sends you back in jazz time to a smoke-filled, excitement-laden, 1960s Blue Note session. After a hip intro and a Kenny Washington drum fill with echoes of Max Roach, the quintet steams ahead on the head. Heavenly shades of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers inspire the team as they roll it out for hard bop at its hottest.
It's clear, as he fires away on his tasteful solos, that Magnarelli has regularly visited the jazz trumpet pantheon and tuned his ear to the greats. He is a player of excitement, inspiration, fire and control. The band is impeccable too. Baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan shines throughout the session; his bellowing sound is never too heavy to swing. Washington's cymbal work is fireworks, worthy of Tony Williams. Pianist David Hazeltine fits in beautifully, both when comping and playing some marvellously engineered solos. Bassist Peter Washington is supremely solidalways right there.
"The Village" lays down an easy bossa nova groove under a lazy, carefree melodic line. Hazeltine builds a tasteful solo. No dragging here, only sway. Magnarelli cascades over the horn and constantly surprises the listener, never falling into cliche or hollow pyrotechnics in lieu of inspiration. Reaching into the Great American Songbook, "I Had the Craziest Dream" spotlights Magnarelli's beautiful soft swing approach. There's no hokey here, no schmaltzy vibrato or syrupy swinging. This track is on a par with a classic version by trumpeter Jack Sheldon. Magnarelli is pure taste. He uses rhythm and melody to construct his solos. Hazeltine's solo is a gem (catch the "Stella By Starlight"-copped cliche: cute!) There's a nice Washington solo too.
"D Train Boogaloo," a funky blues head, sidewinders over a go-go beat and a Lee Morgan quote, spectacularly so. You can bet there are aspiring trumpeters out there who right now are transcribing, copping and wood-shedding Magnarelli licks. The Dietz-Schwartz standard "Haunted Heart" is given a bluesy feel. Magnarelli carries the lead with Smulyan haunting us with a second melodic take and a marvelously lyrical solo. The extended lines intrigue. Hazeltine's comps and interplay with the soloists are perfection before he goes tasteful on his own. The non-related Washingtons capitalize here together.
"You and the Night and the Music"and the race flag! Magnarelli's Dizzy Gillespie-ish Harmon mute work fires at a tempo reminiscent of Clifford Brown's "Cherokee"he even throws in a Brown lick drawn from that classic's intro. Magnarelli spent many years performing with the great bandleader Ray Barretto. His "Ballad for Barretto" has such a beautifully classic melodic approachsimilar to Benny Golson's "I Remember Clifford"that other instrumentalists will probably embrace this tune down the jazz road.
Triple-metered over "Body and Soul" chord changes, "Soul Sister" opens with Magnarelli and Smulyan lightly carrying the melody. The superimposition of new melodic material over standard harmonic changes is as old as jazz. For Magnarelli to use his marvelous compositional chops to take such a standard and turn it into a hip waltz is slick genius.
There are no gimmicks in Persistence. Magnarelli and his colleagues sound comfortably secure in themselves. All have paid dues in the shed, studios and pits, on the road and wherever. It's that persistence that results in performance perfection. Magnarelli presents us with an honest, no frills attempt at that goal. And, yes, he does indeed come close. Very, very close. A terrific, persistently satisfying disc.
Tracks: Persistence; The Village; I Had The Craziest Dream; D Train Boogaloo; Haunted Heart; You and the Night and the Music; Ballad for Barretto; Soul Sister.
Personnel: Joe Magnarelli: trumpet; Gary Smulyan: baritone saxophone; David Hazeltine: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Kenny Washington: drums.