begins with a pleasantly laid back meeting between Willy Wonka and Miles Davisa meeting that has the "Pure Imagination" melody from the children's film being reharmonized with Miles' "It's About That Time." From there, things get a bit more intense as pianist Sam Barsh, bassist Sean Conly, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza take the journey through saxophonist Russ Nolan's intriguing musical mind. Nolan switches from soprano to tenor and weaves bop, cool and swing with a dash of Latin into his own melange on seven originals.
"Two Colors" turns out to be blue in green as the rhythm section takes the Miles classic up-tempo to serve as a vehicle for Conly to be in control while Nolan wails a mean soprano. One can't help but be impressed by Barsh, who belies his youth and is equal partner to Nolan's wide range. Barsh effortlessly imposes a lovely Latin feel to "The One Smiling," bops through the unpredictable changes of "Hai Sensei," and flat out burns on "East Stroudsburg Stomp," the soprano blow-fest and tribute to Nolan mentor Dave Liebman.
Although somewhat of a newcomer to NYC, Nolan has obviously been around, and this debut shows his strong suite to be a facility in moving from soprano to tenor without sacrificing a step. This makes for an appealing session that holds your interest with its broad tonal palette. Nolan wisely chooses his tenor to take things home at a leisurely but melodic pace on "Light Traveler" while Barsh sets up a beautifully flowing backdrop. Nolan is a most able stylist/composer who, for his debut as a leader, has formed a wonderful partnership with pianist Sam Barsh. Here's hoping that there will be more to come from this terrific twosome.
Personnel: Russ Nolan-tenor and soprano saxophones; Sam Barsh-piano; Sean Conly-Bass; Vinnie Sperrazza-