If you're looking for a modern twist on classic, Blue Note-style hard bop, look no further than trumpeter Terell Stafford. A former Bobby Watson, Benny Golson and McCoy Tyner sideman, and current member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Stafford is no revolutionary, but he is at the forefront of younger players putting their own stamp on the jazz mainstream.
Stafford's latest release on the Max Jazz label is a live date recorded two years ago at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis. With a stellar quintet in tow - pianist Bruce Barth, saxophonist Tim Warfield, bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Dana Hall - Stafford delivers a well-paced, audience-friendly set that showcases his rich, supple tone and exceptional chops, while giving his talented bandmates plenty of room to strut their stuff.
Among the many highlights are Stafford's searing soloing on the soul-jazz workout "Blues for J.T.; a surprisingly progressive modal take on the Sunday School staple "Jesus Loves Me"; and the boisterous closer, "Shake it for Me," with Warfield and Stafford setting off some fierce funk fireworks. While he's capable of earth-shaking pyrotechnics, some of Stafford's most inspiring work is on ballads, like his exquisite Miles-esque muted trumpet on "Old Folks."
I Ain't Looking at You
Stafford is also heard to great effect on I Ain't Looking At You, the winning new Enja release from veteran drummer Alvin Queen. A New York native long based in Switzerland, Queen has a hard-swinging, Blakey-esque style and an impressive resume (Horace Silver, George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Charles Tolliver) that place him among the elite jazz drummers.
The album, recorded in Spain, is a throwback to the soul-jazz cookers of the '50s and '60s, with Queen, a busy, but never intrusive drummer, fronting an energetic quintet of New York stalwarts (Stafford, guitarist Peter Bernstein, organist Mike LeDonneheard regularly at Smoke on the Upper West Sideand the outstanding alto saxophonist Jesse Davis).
The date's exuberant mood is established at the outset, with "There's Blues Everywhere," a free-wheeling romp by organ great Shirley Scott. The high spirits continue with an up-tempo take on the Miles Davis classic, "Seven Steps to Heaven," which opens with an extended Queen drum solo before LeDonne steps in to hammer out the familiar refrain. The title tune, by LeDonne, is reminiscent of a vintage Jimmy Smith or Lou Donaldson burner, with Queen shouting out the song's title at the end. Also noteworthy on this highly enjoyable outing are Davis' perfectly crafted solo on the closer, Don Patterson's aptly titled "Mellow Soul," and Bernstein's dynamic fretwork throughout.
Tracks and Personnel
Taking Chances - Live at the Dakota
Tracks: A Nick Off the Mark; Pegasus; Taking a Chance on Love; Jesus Loves Me; Blues for J.T.; Old Folks; Paper Trail; Shake it For Me.
Personnel: Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tim Warfield: soprano and tenor saxophones; Bruce Barth: piano; Derrick Hodge: bass; Dana Hall: drums.
I Ain't Looking at You
Tracks: There's Blues Everywhere, Seven Steps To Heaven, Contemplation, Queen's Beat, I Ain't Looking At You, Shirley's Song, Old Folks, Nutville, Mellow Soul.
Personnel: Terell Stafford: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jesse Davis: alto saxophone; Mike LeDonne: Hammond B3 organ; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Alvin Queen: drums.
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