His already impressive catalog of work for Criss Cross notwithstanding, trumpeter Jim Rotondi's Destination Up
is arguably one of his best records, and it gained numerous critical kudos when it was released a few years back. While the trumpeter's follow-up for the Sharp Nine label might not be as ambitious as its predecessor, it's no less engaging. Furthermore, Rotondi continues to foster an individualistic approach that comes out of the Freddie Hubbard/Woody Shaw bag, but which has amalgamated into a technically proficient and emotionally direct and lyrical muse.
Two of Rotondi's originals mix with a half dozen well-chosen lines from the hard bop canon, with choice arrangements giving everything a fresh coat of paint. A bristling "On Y Va" finds everyone at the starting gate ready to blow and alto man Jesse Davis makes an immediate impression, his tart and fluid lines taking the Parker/Stitt prototype to the next level. "The Breeze and I" is a model of the clever type of arranging tricks that Rotondi uses throughout the date, with the melody delivered over a percolating 6/8 groove. Listen for David Hazeltine's coy solo spot, which includes a well placed quote of "Now's the Time."
Facing a proven test for the mettle of a jazz artist, Rotondi really delivers on ballads and his feature spot here on "My Ideal" exudes maturity and lyrical character. A real storyteller, Rotondi also knows how to take his time with a line, and that skill makes an expansive take on Billy Taylor's "A Bientot" one of the highlights of the disc. Rounding things out, Rotondi and crew revisit two lesser-known items from the Blue Note legacy, namely Joe Henderson's "Mamacita" and Donald Byrd's "Hush."
Those who have followed Rotondi over the years and know of his efforts with the band One For All and other projects with his clique of like-minded artists will find it no surprise that the lock-up the trumpeter gets with Hazeltine and drummer Joe Farnsworth is something truly special. In addition, bassist Ray Drummond was no stranger, having filled in for Peter Washington on a few One For All gigs in the past. Davis proved to be the real revelation, and one can only hope that he and Rotondi will choose to join forces again in the future, the pair offering a change of pace from the usual tenor/trumpet front line.
Personnel: Jim Rotondi (trumpet and flugelhorn), Jesse Davis (alto sax), David Hazeltine (piano), Ray Drummond (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums)