As the title suggests, this CD is a tribute to the great Cool Jazz saxophonist of Dave Brubeck fame. The music is actually inspired from the Paul Desmond / Jim Hall ensemble of the early 60s. Just as that group created supple, understated music of great beauty, this new aggregation with guitarist John Basile at the helm makes the same eloquent statement.
The group is composed of Basile on guitar, Allen Mezquida on alto, David Finck on bass and Payton Crossley on drums. These players are not well known to me, but they are all very talented and sensitive musicians.
Basile, playing a Tom Doyle custom made solidbody, deals gracefully and carefully with the music. He presses into every note with a languid vibrato not unlike John Abercrombie. His chord voicings are sparse but complete and his swing is always present. Mezquida's alto has the same gentle way with the notes that made Desmond famous. His playing is subtle and pensive with a hint of bluesiness and a warm tone. Finck and Crossley do precisely what a rhythm section should do: frame the picture. This they do perfectly. When called upon to solo, they perform wonderfully.
The tunes chosen for this project provide great material for the players. Favorites their waltz version of "Darn That Dream," the reharmonized "My Funny Valentine," "Wendy" (a Desmond classic and a gorgeous melody), and Duke's "Warm Valley" (the great Johhny Hodges alto feature that is tastefully rendered by Basile). Of course, no Desmond tribute CD could be complete without "Take Five," which rounds out the list.
On this CD, the name of the game is Cool. But you don't get a pretentious "Hey, We're Cool" attitude from the music. Rather, a sensitive and thoughtful treatment of the tunes from players who respect each other and the music they are playing.
The recording is excellent. Just enough reverb to hint at an empty club after hours. The choice to record this project live in an Episcopal church was probably largely responsible for the sound of the recording. Fans of cool jazz and pensive, relaxed guitar work will definitely want to check this CD out.