Ed Bennett’s quintet is a superior group from Portland, Oregon, which has become a hotbed of jazz activity. The bassist boasts an admirable resume including stints with Carmen McRae, Joe Henderson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Sonny Stitt, the Akiyoshi-Tabackin Big Band, and a number of West Coast stalwarts.Tourology
is his fourth album on his own label, Saphu. While the disc’s back cover emulates the appearance of classic Blue Note LPs, the music within is skewed solidly toward West Coast coolness.
The unusual alto-trombone front line works very well in this style of music. Warren Rand’s alto approach is reminiscent of Bud Shank and Phil Woods, edgy without being abrasive. Tom Hill is a fine trombonist with a fluid attack and bright tone, complementing the alto sound nicely. Pianist Steve Christofferson, a popular local figure, and drummer Tony Jefferson form a flexible rhythmic partnership with Bennett, who composed most of the selections here. The bassist’s approach to the upright is limber and technically masterful.
There’s an enjoyable array of tunes on this collection. The bossa rhythm of track #3 and lightly swinging waltz of #8 are especially comfortable, and the ensemble holds fast onto the up-tempo #5. Track #7, a less familiar piece by Ray Brown and Gil Fuller, nostalgically recalls the fertile era between bebop’s complexity and the openness of free jazz. Another little-known gem is the dark, mysterious #9, by bass icon Putter Smith. Bennett takes the initial melodic statements on #4, a Clifford Brown composition, and the Billy Strayhorn classic (#10). All of the performers have a natural feel for the unfailing swing necessary to pull off this type of jazz.Tourologyworks beautifully on all levels, an immensely enjoyable jazz offering.
(For more information about Ed Bennett and this disc, please visit http://edbennett.biojazz.com or write Saphu Records, P.O. Box 68343, Portland, OR 97268.)
Personnel: Ed Bennett, bass; Warren Rand, alto sax; Tom Hill, trombone; Steve Christofferson, piano; Tony Jefferson, drums.