Swiss-born trumpeter Daniel Schenker and his quartet, who earned high marks from this reviewer for an earlier album, Iridium
(Brambus, 2003), are back for another go around, this time with guest saxophonist Chris Cheek from New York City making it a quintet. The performance, taped live in October '04 at Zurich's Moods nightclub, is as admirable as before, the choice of music somewhat less so.
Schenker wrote six of the eight numbers (there's one holdover from Iridium, the ballad "Jedesmal Anders ); the others are Cheek's perky original, "Water Mile, and the standard "Blame It on My Youth. With the possible exceptions of "Columbus Avenue and "Soundlines, none is of more than passing interest, serving instead as obligatory springboards for extended solos, mainly by Schenker, Cheek and the tasteful pianist Chris Wiesendanger.
"Avenue, perhaps inspired by Schenker's visit to the Big Apple in 2002-3 (and perhaps based on "All God's Children Got Rhythm"that's a guess), is one of the disc's high spots, a free-flowing swinger with intrepid blowing by all hands, including bassist Peter Frei and drummer Elmar Frey, who, like Wiesendanger, have been members of Schenker's group almost from day one. "Thurso is the most recondite of Schenker's themes (through-written for the ensemble, with no solos), while "Soundlines is an easygoing bossa on which Wiesendanger offers a typically charming intro before Schenker, Cheek and Frei take their turns (and Cheek, on tenor, delivers what is arguably his most persuasive solo).
Schenker and Cheek, again on tenor, open "Blame It on My Youth unaccompanied, setting a pensive mood that prevails throughout. The rhythmic closer, "Chorinho, has everyone up and galloping again; Schenker is especially quick from the starting gate and Wiesendanger and Cheek (on soprano) are no more than half a length behind, looking to make it a photo finish. A powerful statement by Frey spurs the group into the home stretch and the horns lead everyone across the finish line.
To me, Schenker, an admirer of Miles Davis, is technically ahead of his role model but hasn't equaled Miles' originality (no shame, as few trumpeter ever have). Even so, he's an excellent all-around player, as are Cheek and the others. Together they've produced another thoroughly likable album from Europe.
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Personnel: Daniel Schenker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Chris Wiesendanger: piano; Peter Frei: bass; Elmar Frey:
drums. Special guest: Chris Cheek: tenor sax, soprano sax.