Dick Titterington truly hits the bullseye on his latest album, a traditional jazz outing entitled Yellow Dance.
It finds Titterington in a setting very different from his debut, Amber Eyes
; whereas the earlier record featured a full quintet, his latest lacks piano, guitar, or a consistent horn section. Flautist Tim Jensen and tenor man Rob Davis join for two tracks each, along with pianist Randy Porter, who adds melodica on two tracks.
This lineup leaves Titterington with much room to grow, like a goldfish in a spacious tank. The way he manages, with the help of the smooth rhythm section, to make Dance's twelve pieces interesting is commendable. The music places heavy emphasis on improvisation, one of the strongest points of the album.
The originals are varied and quite promising. The trio has a tendency to work intricate playing around simple melodies, always retaining a sparse, minimalist quality. "Yellow Dance" is a fine example of Titterington's approach, featuring the excellent Rob Davis on tenor sax. Revolving around one theme with an elementary bass line, the improvisation is key to holding the listener's attention. "Lunky" is a short wah-wah tune in 7/4, demonstrating a very straightforward approach. "Seams," featuring Tim Jensen on flute, is the most captivating and melodic piece of the lot. Perhaps the most intricate technical work can be found on "Lose the Crowd," a short, fast-paced piece again featuring very difficult, octave-jumping lipping from Titterington. The extended, lighthearted "Stream Line" showcases the most impressive work from percussionist Todd Strait.
A similar diversity among the "arranged standard fare" which makes up the other half of Dance helps to keep the album moving. The theme from the Disney animated film Alice In Wonderland is one interesting selection, along with "How Are Things In Glocca Morra?," from the musical Finian's Rainbow. What jazz album would be complete without a few standards? A brief take on "Seven Steps to Heaven" finds the rhythm section gliding through difficult transition sections; Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle" is the second track with Rob Davis. The bright Latin-twinged melodies of the Donato and Gilberto classic "Minha Saudade" unite trumpet and flute in one part and allow solo space for both bassist Scott Steed and Todd Strait. The ballad "You're a Lucky Guy" provides the most somber moments of the record.
Dance is certainly a quality work, but its uneven production is an unfortunate hindrance. The mix is very bass-heavy, causing the hits of the bass drum to sound like more of a resounding boom than a beat, creating a lagging effect in the rhythm section. In addition to the budget production, Titterington's tone is somewhat constricted on the higher notes, and the bass-drum-trumpet lineup becomes tiresome toward the end of the album. In any case, Yellow Dance is still remarkable for its complex improv and stylistic variety.
Personnel: Dick Titterington: trumpet;
Scott Steed: bass;
Todd Strait: drums.
Tim Jensen: flute on tracks 5 and 10;
Rob Davis: tenor saxophone on tracks 1 and 6;
Randy Porter: melodica on tracks 4 and 12.