Ralph Lalama Quartet: The Audience (2010)
Covers can become trite very quickly, but when arrangements are fresh and performance is equal to the task, they can become as endearing as new masterpieces. The Audience, by Ralpha Lalama Quartet, has that quality with its mix of lesser-known jazz songs, a little pop and some original interludes.
Lalama, a tenor saxophonist, has been a fixture on the New York jazz scene for 30 years, many of them spent with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. He was also a member of Joe Lovano's Grammy-winning Nonet. Joining Lalama are bassist Rick Petrone, guitarist John Hart and drummer Joe Corsello.
There's something special about a swinging jazz interpretation of a pop, rock or soul song. The quartet brings that type of flair to Stevie Wonder's "Livin' for the City." Sax and guitar blend for the melody with modest contributions from bass and drums. After the chorus, Lalama solos, with playful support from the supporting cast. Hart's solo is in that hybrid area that bridges jazz and traditional blues. After the two trade a second set of solos, the band returns to the melody. Petrone and Corsello show off a bit during the closing sequence while Lalama and Hart engage in a spirited call-and-response.
"Portrait of Jennie," previously recorded by Nat King Cole and several jazz luminaries, is dedicated to Lalama's mother Jennie, who died in 2005. This tranquil piece features a somber, yet charming lead from the tenor. A dialogue between Lalama and Corsello sets up the ending.
"Minor League," first recorded by guitarist Grant Green with saxophonist Joe Henderson, is a lively piece. Lalama's lead is augmented by the play of the sidemen, while Hart again solos with a crafty blend of jazz and blues.
The Audience is the quartet's follow-up to its debut, Energy Fields (Mighty Quinn, 2008). The name is derived from the band's alignment during the recording sessionplaying as if before a live audience.
Track Listing: Marie Antoinette; Livin' for the City; Love Thy Neighbor; Jonme; Portrait of Jennie; Minor League; Jome; Kiss & Run; Ricme; I'm an Old Cowhand.
Personnel: Ralph Lalama: tenor sax; John Hart: guitar; Rick Petrone: bass; Joe Corsello: drums.