Jim Ketch: A Distant View (2012)
A Distant View delivers intelligent music performed by highly involved players across a dozen diverse selections ranging from straight-ahead hard bop, calypso, an obligatory standard and a Chuck Mangione-esque soft rock tidbit thrown in for dessert. Incorporating a classic Art Blakey quintet formula, these outstanding players share a common interest here in the total effort and each others' offerings, and it pays off in dividends.
The frontline of trumpeter Jim Ketch and saxophonist Dave Finucane lays down the gauntlet with "Not at This Time," announcing that these are both players and an effort of significance. Rather than detracting from the ideas at hand, Ketch's fluent playing embellishes them with intelligent and cliché-free solos. There's very little predictability about Ketch's improvisations; unafraid to take chances the trumpeter demonstrates an admirable ease of expression. Approaching and leveraging the technical wizardry of trumpetdom's Allen Vizzutti and Vince DiMartino, Ketch draws heavily from some of jazz best trumpeters, including Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Shew, Tom Harrell and Miles Davis. A professor and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of North Carolina, Ketch in no way sounds as if he's been cloistered away, but if he has, it's been in the woodshed. His two original compositions, "Graham's Blues" and Savannah's Swing," demonstrate a smart pen as well.
This is an ensemble that works well together. The pieces meld perfectly as ideas bounce among these fine players. Demonstrating high interplay and involvement, there's hardly any creative downtime, with something of interest always popping up around the next measure's corner.
A swinging and highly inventive improviser/composer ("Not at This Time") in the early John Coltrane mode, Finacune is a perfect sidekick to Ketch. Their creative styles are indeed similar and mesh well. Pianist and fellow UNC professor Stephen Anderson punctuates his solos with a high degree of rhythmic diversity, demonstrating marvelous touch and interplay during his duo with Ketch, "My One and Only Love," where he seemingly invites the trumpeter to step up to the romantic plate and deliver. Bassist Jeffry Eckels pumps, prods and glides throughout, while drummer Ross Pederson is most generous and highly involved as he feeds and responds to the creative ideas offered by his cohort soloists and ensemble fellows. Thelonious Monk is anecdotally rumored to have said "Make the drummer look good." Pederson and Ecklels do that graciously in return for all concerned here.
A Distant View is a looking glass that spotlights superior ensemble playing and superb improvisation. No mirage, the result is a most enjoyable landscape of marvelously swinging jazz.
Track Listing: Not at This Time; Grace; Long Ago and Far Away; My One and Only Love; Graham's Blues; A Distant View; You Won't Believe Me When I Tell You; Sail Away; Savannah's Swinging; Beatitudes; Dewey's Tune; Strasbourg/St. Denis.
Personnel: Jim Ketch: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Finucane: tenor saxophone; Stephen Anderson: piano; Jeffry Eckels