Trumpeter Rocky Winslow’s debut as leader is an enterprising album of assertive post–bop Jazz that is undeniably well–played but sounds much like many other enterprising albums of assertive post–bop Jazz. While almost every track is admirable, none is memorable. Winslow, who wrote five of the eight numbers that comprise the album and solos on all of them, leads a group of able–bodied sidemen and guests who manage to capture one’s interest even when the material is less than absorbing. Alto / soprano Phil Wigfall joins the quartet on “Drew’s Blues” and his own composition, “Eyes of the Alchemist,” tenor Marc Solis on “She Was Only Dreaming” and “Tense Resolutions.” Wigfall and Solis make it a sextet on Winslow’s “Eukanuba” and trumpeter Lon Bronson’s All–Stars (with Winslow and pianist Stefan Karlsson in the lineup) perform on “Simple Complications” whose candid premise is not only snarled but in the end sabotaged by an overabundance of reverb. Winslow’s bristling opener, “Drew’s Blues,” written for his friend, comedian Drew Carey, sets the tone for what’s to come as the rhythm section digs in behind forceful solos by Wigfall, Karlsson and Winslow and some heated four–bar exchanges with drummer Elliot Zigmund. A second Winslow composition, “She Was Only Dreaming,” sways to a seductive Latin beat with crisp statements by Rocky, Solis and the always impressive Karlsson. Wigfall (on soprano), Winslow, Karlsson and Gomez are the soloists on “Alchemist.” Gomez, solid timekeeper, loves to hum along as he solos, which (to me) is quite distracting. According to the notes, which describe in detail the musical construction of each composition, Winslow chose “a palindromic–like configuration (the second half of the piece is the first half in reverse) which encompasses the entire performance” of “Tense Resolutions.” Meaningful to others, I’m sure; what I hear is another driving boppish exercise in which the rhythm section works hard to underscore earnest solos by Gomez, Karlsson, Winslow and Solis. Winslow uses a Harmon mute on Karlsson’s gentle “Your Ballad,” then opens up again on the rhythmic “Organ Grinder,” which was written by one of his main influences, the late trumpeter Woody Shaw. Like “Tense Resolutions,” “Eukanuba” starts slowly and builds in intensity behind resourceful ad–libs by Wigfall (sounding a lot like Cannoball Adderley), Winslow, Solis and Zigmund. “Complications” shows promise but never realizes it, thanks in part to an echo–chamber ambiance that bedevils one’s ears and a 13:16 playing time that only lengthens the annoyance factor. Winslow’s debut shows promise too, but not enough to set him apart from the herd.
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Personnel: Rocky Winslow, trumpet; Stefan Karlsson, piano; Eddie Gomez, bass; Elliot Zigmund, drums. Guest artists