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Big Band Report

"Lone Wolf" Finds Plenty to Chew On

By Published: March 8, 2013
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
, it has been said, loved the sound of a baritone sax. True or not, one thing is certain: almost anyone would love the sound of a baritone as played by Claire Daly
Claire Daly
Claire Daly

sax, baritone
on this earnest salute to Thelonious' music, Baritone Monk. Not only are Daly's rhythmic awareness and phrasing impeccable, her crisp, muscular tone harkens back to such past masters as Cecil Payne
Cecil Payne
Cecil Payne
1922 - 2007
sax, baritone
, Harry Carney
Harry Carney
Harry Carney
1910 - 1974
sax, baritone
, Serge Chaloff
Serge Chaloff
Serge Chaloff
b.1923
sax, baritone
and Nick Brignola
Nick Brignola
Nick Brignola
1936 - 2002
sax, baritone
. Yes, she nods to Mulligan too, but never more than elliptically; Daly's vocabulary is explicitly her own. And unlike some who treat the baritone like a deep-voiced clarinet, Daly is especially impressive on ballads such as "Light Blue" and "Ruby, My Dear." That's not to imply, however, that Daly is any less persuasive when the heat is turned on high, as she has technique to burn at any tempo.

Daly plays flute on one number, "Pannonica," and sings (briefly) on "A Merrier Christmas." Otherwise, it's baritone all the way, underscored by a compatible threesome (Steve Hudson, piano; Mary Ann McSweeney, bass; Peter Grant, drums) whose solid groundwork enables Daly to improvise naturally within a secure comfort zone. Hudson fashions a number of un-Monkish solos that are nonetheless bright and charming, while McSweeney and Grant unsheathe their eloquent voices on several tracks, most notably "Teo," " Ruby, My Dear," "52nd Street Theme" (McSweeney); "Two Timer," "Bright Mississippi," "A Merrier Christmas" (Grant). McSweeney's arco solo on "Light Blue" is a singular delight. Meanwhile, Daly strikes the mark consistently with perceptive ad-libs that surely would have made Monk smile with pleasure.

Every song on the album was written by Monk including the lesser-known "Teo" (a bow to bandleader / record producer Teo Macero
Teo Macero
Teo Macero
1925 - 2008
producer
), "Two Timer," "Light Blue," "Brake's Sake," "Let's Cool One," "Green Chimneys" and "Stuffy Turkey," the last a carefree riff "borrowed" by Monk from Sir Charles Thompson
Sir Charles Thompson
Sir Charles Thompson
b.1918
piano
and Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
. As performed by Daly's quartet, they are as luminous and enchanting as Monk's more familiar works: "Pannonica," "Bright Mississippi," "Ruby, My Dear" and "52nd Street Theme." In fact, everything on the album is exemplary, not least Daly's remarkable command of the baritone sax, one reason she has regularly been entrenched among the leaders in DownBeat magazine's annual critics and readers polls. Baritone Monk is a thundering pleasure.

John Wasson's Coolbrass Jazztet
The New Cool
Consolidated Artists
2012

John Wasson's Coolbrass Jazztet, inspired, he says, by Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
' classic "Birth of the Cool" sessions from 1949-50 and Wasson's time as a tuba player with the Dallas Brass, is a brass quintet—two trumpets, two trombones, tuba—with a rhythm section comprised solely of drummer Jaelun Washington. If it seems at times as though the group may be larger, that's because Wasson's tuba "doubles" as bass, providing with Washington's drums a tight-knit rhythmic substructure for the horns. To avoid imitation, as if that were an issue, the Jazztet performs only one song from Davis' groundbreaking album, Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
Gerry Mulligan
1927 - 1996
sax, baritone
's "Jeru." The rest of The New Cool is comprised of themes by Davis, Ralph Burns
Ralph Burns
Ralph Burns
b.1922
composer/conductor
, Matthew Nicholl, Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
1920 - 2012
piano
, Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
1932 - 1975
arranger
, Thad Jones
Thad Jones
Thad Jones
1923 - 1986
trumpet
, Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
and even Leonard Bernstein / Stephen Sondheim (the dynamic "Mambo" from West Side Story).

To enhance the Jazztet's chances for success, Wasson has chosen its repertoire wisely. Burns' "Early Autumn," Hancock's "Dolphin Dance," Nelson's "Stolen Moments" and Corea's "Spain" are jazz standards, while Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk," Hancock's "Speak Like a Child," Davis' "Solar" and Jones' "Tip Toe" are only a rung below on that ladder. And even though lesser-known, Coltrane's "Mr. Syms" and Nicholls' "Blues Noir" are no less pleasing. Wasson's charts are exemplary, the Jazztet is well-rehearsed, and the musicianship is first-class, individually and collectively. In other words, the solos—by trumpeters Chad Willis and Pete Clagett, trombonists Luke Brimhall and John Allen—are consistently sharp and seductive. Washington solos nimbly when called upon, while Wasson makes only one brief statement, on "Stolen Moments."

For those who appreciate the deep harmonies and close interplay embodied by trumpets and trombones and aren't troubled by the absence of woodwinds, it doesn't get much better than this. Let's hope The New Cool is here to stay.

Roberto Magris Trio
One Night in with Hope and More . . . Vol. 1
JMood Records
2013


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