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The best bands create collectively. You can tell when that's truly happening by their comfort in subtle compingor in laying out altogether. Which is not to say they can't play with combined fire when it is called for. That's the key, and what you'll hear throughout trumpeter Dave Balllou's latest recorded adventure.
In addition to being a fixture on the Big Apple jazz scene, a member of both Andrew Hill and Maria Schneider's large ensembles and the Steely Dan horn section, and a partner in free improv with violinist Mat Maneri, Ballou has released a steady succession of recordings for the Danish SteepleChase label, now exceeding a half dozen as a leader.
Regards is evenly divided between original compositions and standards, though the "standards are by no means treated in a standard way. Ballou and Co. deconstruct and reconstruct each of them and make them launching pads for extended improvisation, with the emphasis on extended. Aside from the relatively brief ensemble reshaping of Monk's "Bemsha Swing (a mere four minutes), each of the others is at least seven minutes and two of the best stretch into double-digits.
The Leo Robin-Ralph Rainger classic ballad "If I Should Lose You gets an outstanding quartet treatment. Pianist Frank Kimbrough sets the agenda on this piece with clever counterpoint throughout Ballou's extended opening solo. Bass and drums then take a contrasting role beneath the piano solo. The only unaccompanied solo features bassist John Hebert, and that gives way to a trumpet/bass/drums exploration of the melody, before Kimbrough rejoins the fun.
Ballou's "Bumpus is a tribute to late saxophonist Cornelius Bumpus, with whom Dave worked in the Steely Dan horns. "Labels is somewhat Monkish in its playful introduction and throughout Kimbrough's lead solo. Ballad lovers will enjoy Ballou's title track, on which he shifts to flugelhorn for his poignant solo.
The session winds down with an extended piece simply called "Blues that was written by the leader. The unusual tempo gives it an unconventional, almost avant-garde, blues feel. It showcases the many textures and colors that drummer Randy Peterson has added throughout the session as appropriate. All in all, a splendid listen.
Track Listing: Tenderly; Labels; Bemsha Swing; Bumpus; If I Should Lose You; Regards; I Remember You;
Blues. Total time: 65:19.
Personnel: Dave Ballou: trumpet, flugelhorn (6); Frank Kimbrough: piano; John Hebert: bass; Randy