Chicago trumpeter Rob Parton has been leading his phenomenal JAZZTECH Big Band for the better part of two decades now, but it was four years of quartet gigs at the Catch 35 Restaurant and Club in Chicago that inspired Rob Parton Quartet
. Parton began performing at the club in 2005 with his favorite longtime drummer Bob Rummage and pianist Laurence Hobgood, who has since relocated to New York and been replaced by Steve Million
. The quartet now features Million, Rummage and bassist Eric Hochberg, who Parton credits for being his mentor since the club gig started.
In this celebration of the quartet's tenure, Parton calls on former pianist Hobgood and saxophonist Mark Colby
a regular JAZZTECH member and one of the finest sax men in jazz todayto augment an already world-class group. Its nine-piece ensemble performs smart, creative variations of music from Jerome Kern
, Duke Ellington
, Sam Rivers
, Johnny Griffin
and Chick Corea
, as well as original compositions from Hochberg and the group's pianists.
Jerome Kern's standard, "In Love and Vain," starts with Hochberg's strong bass lines, which are quickly engaged by Parton's forceful blowing, Hobgood's light finger play on piano and Rummage's crashing cymbal accents. This is followed by a leisurely stroll through Sam River's signature "Beatrice," where the same combo unfurls music in delightful fashion. Parton is especially expressive, and Hochberg showcases his metal in a tasteful solo. Parton lets it all hang out with some brawny blowing on Ellington's brisk "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me," using the trumpet plunger to create a raunchy and boisterous sound.
The band plays a beautiful rendition of Griffin's "When We Were One," treating it like a soft, sensitive ballad. This is one of the album's warmer pieces, featuring Million on keys. In contrast, Million's "Million and the Brazilian" is a hot Brazilian-tinged number marking the first appearance of tenor saxophonist Colby, who delivers flashy phrases in support of Million's Fender Rhodes. When he takes his turn, Parton engages in a brief duel with Colby, climaxing what is, perhaps, the recording's signature tune.
Hobgood is amazing on the bassist's original "Miss Black," and on his own "Prayer for the Enemy," two melancholy and expansive numbers that run over 10 minutes each. On Chick Corea's barn-burner "The Loop," Parton shares the limelight with Hochberg and Million. The program ends with Hochberg's "8 x 12," which contains a bit of improvisation from Parton and Colby, and culminates with a Rummage rumble on the drums that puts an exclamation point on one very fine album.
Personnel: Rob Parton: trumpet; Eric Hochberg: bass; Steve Million: piano (4, 5, 7, 9); Bob Rummage: drums; Laurence Hobgood: piano (1-3, 6, 8); Mark Colby: tenor saxophone (5, 9).