How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The leaders of this excellent album all record for the Italian Red Records label, hence the title, Red Stars. However, the album is essentially Fabio Morgera's conception. He produced it, and it was his idea to merge straight-ahead, swinging jazz with some electronic elements, and on Eric Lewis' tune "Jennifer," a pronounced backbeat. Those purists who insist on limiting jazz only to acoustic instruments probably aren't going to like Morgera's electronically altered trumpet, but other listeners should dig the great music that resonates throughout Red Stars.
Morgera uses an octave divider and an echo device on his horn, which gives his solos the effect of a cascading bebop waterfall. He's the only musician here whose playing is electronically treated, and the contrast of his echoing lines with the otherwise acoustic ensemble is sometimes jarring. But his meaty solos have plenty of substance, and like everyone else on this recording, he swings hard.
Amongst other things, Red Stars is a showcase for some younger players, including pianists Eric Lewis and Raymond Angry. Lewis appears on five cuts, Angry on four, and they both solo with fire and distinctive invention. Trombonist Jason Jackson shows considerable promise, and tenor player J.D. Allen, while exhibiting a Wayne Shorter influence, plays with pile-driver swing and some strikingly original ideas.
But it is the work of veteran drummer Victor Lewis and brilliant bassist Eric Revis that makes Red Stars so utterly satisfying. Their interplay is dynamic and together, their time an integrated roar. Lewis is so commanding, with such appropriate accenting and so much boiling swing, that he ascends to a level of mastery achieved by very few drummers in jazz. While Morgera's playing gives things a contemporary aspect, this disc is still a terrific straight-ahead jazz record, filled with cool tunes, inspired blowing, and sterling swing.
Track Listing: Afrocentric, Blasphemy, Jennifer, Delivery, Dex-Mex, Desdemona, Hey It's Me You're Talking To, I Will Fear No Evil, Peace March.
Personnel: Fabio Morgera, trumpet, effects, Flugelhorn; J.D.Allen, tenor saxophone; Jason Jackson, trombone; Eric Lewis, piano on tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 8; Raymond Angry, piano, keyboards on tracks 2, 4, 6, 9; Eric Revis, bass; Victor Lewis, drums.