Chris Colangelo: Elaine's Song (2010)
Representing the second album in a decade for Los Angeles-based bassist Chris Colangelo, Elaine's Song documents seven original compositions that he has been working on for two years; time well spent, considering the caliber of the charts. Though the originals are the meat of this musical endeavor, the most ambitious piece of the album, "Falling Grace" is borrowed from bassist Steve Swallow, and provides the bassist a platform to showcase his acoustic bass chops. The other non-original tune in the repertoire is a very lively rendition of John Coltrane's "Straight Street," featuring Los Angeles reed master Bob Sheppard, howling on soprano saxophone. As good as the two standards fare here, it is Colangelo's original work that defines this disc as exceptional.
The album kicks off with, perhaps, the best chart: the up-tempo "The Ubiquitous One," sporting a light groove introduced by the bassist, Sheppard and drummer Steve Hass, which takes off with soulful play by Sheppard, as pianist John Beasley lays down the melody. "Like Kenny (For Kenny Garret)," one of the bassist's favorite players, features Zane Musa on a heavy alto expression, later joined by the drummer and tenor saxophonist Benn Clatworthy on a rumble in an essentially hard-bop burner. A tune dear to Colangelo's heart is the title track, penned for his wife, which provides an opportunity for Beasley and Sheppard to dance around the leader's firm bass line.
Clatworthy leads on "Green And Blue," this time producing fluid flute lines and setting up a delicate bass solo leading Clatworthy to float his flute to the finish. "Gryffindor's Revenge" is a quick-paced, straight-ahead jazz piece performed in a standard piano trio format, with Beasley and Hass cooking it. Another dedication to a friend, "Watts Important (For Jeff "Tain" Watts)," is yet another outstanding original, offering Hass a platform to feature his more than adequate skills on the skins.
Colangelo saves his last original for the finale, with Sheppard returning on "From Dark To Light" and providing soft tenor glows on this post-bop ballad, topping off at nine-and-a-half minutes to close a truly wonderful session of contemporary jazz. Elaine's Song is a gem of a recording, which stands out not so much for the musicianship, but for the quality of the music. Colangelo is undoubtedly a very fine bassist, but this project is more a testament to his skills as a composer and arranger than his performance as a bassist; altogether, some excellent session work.
Track Listing: The Ubiquitous One; Like Kenny; Elaine's Song; Green and Blue; Gryffindor's Revenge; Watt's Important; Falling Grace; Straight Street; From Dark to Light.
Personnel: Chris Colangelo: acoustic bass; John Beasley: piano; Bob Sheppard: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Benn Clatworthy: tenor saxophone, flute; Zane Musa: alto saxophone; Steve Hass: drums.
Record Label: Self Produced