Tom Graf: Grafitti (2010)
There's a familiarity to the songs on composer Tom Graf's Grafitti, that makes the disc feel like an old favorite even though it goes from funk and cha-cha to bop and straight-ahead jazz. There's such an air of familiarity, in fact, that if Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane could hear Grafitti in heaven, they might jump right in play along. It's in the way some songs beginlittle flourishes here, borrowed notes thereand in the way it feels like others will end. For all that's good about Grafitti, for all the reminiscing and longing for the days of old that come with hearing the music, none of it would have worked with a less talented group of players.
On the disc's opener, "Apropo," trumpeter Mike Olmos and saxophonist Joe Cohen recall the Miles and Coltrane of Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959)full of energy and passion, curiosity and adventurousness. The music is up-tempo, and Olmos sails through effortlessly, while Cohen plays wingman and fills in to his counterpart's benefit. The duo is featured together as soloists on four of the disc's nine tracks, and as lead soloists separately on the remaining pieces.
On "Leeway," percussionist Derek Rolando pairs with Olmos and Cohen to deliver a spirited performance of Latin grooves that swings so hard it could move a mountain. "Caragua," another Latin-tinged selection, features solid piano and percussion contributions from David K. Mathews and Michael Spiro respectively. "Flower in the Rain" is a beautiful ballad that borrows a bit from Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood," with Cohen delivering his most beautiful solo work of the disc. And on "Romessa," a song Graf describes as a Latin march, Olmos and Mathews play together beautifully, making it the best song on the recording.
Grafitti is a solid recording; Graf's songwriting is quality stuff and shines in the hands of his supporting cast. With songwriting like this in his repertoire, Graf demonstrates a versatility that should keep him around for a very long time. For a man whose songs have been turned down by A&R heads because his songs weren't "commercial" enough, one listen to Grafitti is evidence enough that Graf is on the right track.
Track Listing: Apropo; Leeway; The Godown; Carugua; BL&T; Flower in the Rain; Coffee & Donuts; Walls; Romessa
Personnel: David K. Mathews: piano; Paul van Wageningen: drums; Marc van Wageningen: bass; John Wiitala: bass; Mike Olmos: trumpet; Joe Cohen: saxophone; Michael Spiro: percussion (4); Ray Obiedo: guitar; Derek Rolando: percussion (2)