How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
If there is a stream of any kind that runs through Silver Streams by The Joe La Barbera Quintet, it is the flow of energyintense to the point of ignitionthat is tapped. No meandering "Old Man River," this team drinks from the source with gusto and unified creativity. That shouldn't be a surprise, since La Barbera and his mateseach a Los Angeles first call musicianhave performed together for decades.
La Barbera, one-third of a celebrated jazz family, with brothers saxophonist Pat La Barbera
and others in the jazz pantheon. Here he takes the leader's role and performs with his usual meticulous time, brilliant cymbal and set work and total immersion into the creative forces around him.
The eight selections, all superb originals, provide a diverse platform from which frontline performers and rhythm section deliver. The groove gamut is covered from classic hard bop ("Afluencia," "E.J.'s Blues") and straight-ahead stroll ("Bradley's, 2 AM?") to Frank Zappa
(trumpet) deliver ideas and interpretations which flitter back and forth with little or no regard for their respective instruments' limitations. Each pushes the other's envelope relentlessly, but never in a competitive manner.
Sheppard's saxophones blow from the serene ("Jade Visions") to sublime ("Grace"). His is a creative approach of sustained surprise and rhythmic invention. Jenkins, playing in a highly stylized manner, unabashedly channels Miles Davis
is a rock throughout. The ensemble's moments of freer group play are a veritable highlight show.
Bill Evans talked about a "Universal Mind Force," into which the finest musicians tap. Silver Streams demonstrates what is ultimately possible when five stellar players merge to simultaneously access that force and deliver its awesome power through their magnificent music.