New York-based bassist/composer Christian Fabian has held the bass chair in the Lionel Hampton Big Band for over a decade and has built a reputation in the jazz world as a solid purveyor of the bottom end. For The Masters Return! Fabian is joined by veterans Mike Longo (piano), Lewis Nash (drums), Jimmy Owens (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Andres Boiarsky (tenor saxophone).
The disc's twelve tracks strike a nice balance between standards, jazz classics and originals, most of which are contributed by Fabian. "The Wayshowers," Fabian's pulsating 6/8 groove, opens the session with imaginative vigor. The bassist bows with focused phrasing and unwavering intonation through the melody of "My One and Only Love," switching to meaty pizzicato during Longo's swinging solo.
In fact, meatiness may be the best way to describe Fabian's overall sound. Whether walking or soloing, it's his uncompromising tone that keeps the listener engaged. Spreading the funk on thick, Fabian breathes life into Herbie Hancock's two-chord warhorse "Chameleon." The bassist's duet with Nash on "Willow Weep for Me" is a highlight of the disc, ripe with bouncy riffs and meticulously placed double-stops.
Owen's plays with tenacity and assuredness on Dizzy Gillespie's "Bebop," creating lines that are at once dazzling and lyrical. The trumpeter gracefully leads the way through his own composition "Dear Thaddeus and Roland," an endearing ballad with a bolero-inspired feel. Boiarsky, whose sound is somewhat reminiscent of the late Joe Farrell, plays wonderfully on Fabian's delicate waltz, "Morning After," as well as the aforementioned "Chameleon."
With superb performances and creative composing/arranging, The Masters Return! is a well-crafted collection of straight-ahead jazz. Fabian's musical vision is at once steeped in tradition and forward thinking.
Personnel: Christian Fabian: bass; Mike Longo: piano; Lewis Nash: drums; Jimmy Owens: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andres Boiarsky: tenor saxophone.