Family is a major theme on Terell Stafford
's Between Two Worlds
, with compositions dedicated to his daughter, mother and wife. His band has been playing with him so long they must feel like family too. They include tenor and soprano saxophonist Tim Warfield
, pianist Bruce Barth
, drummer Johnathan Blake
and bassist David Wong
. In fact, Wong plays with Stafford every week as part of the renowned Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
. Percussionist Alex Acuña
is the new member of the family.
Stafford has a background that would be the envy of most musicians having spent five years playing in Bobby Watson
's group, Horizon. He has also performed with groups such as Benny Golson
's Sextet, McCoy Tyner
's Latin All-Star Band and the Kenny Barron
Quintet. Whilst this would have given him invaluable experience and knowledge, it was the pandemic that threw the priorities of home and work life into stark relief and this album is his response to finding the right balance.
The album opens with the title track, composed by Victor Lewis
; trumpet and drums play loosely with the melody, the band then join and the melody snaps into focus. Stafford is a generous leader, as trumpet, sax and piano get their turn in the spotlight. The drums and bass play with rhythms. Finally, the drums get their own break and Blake takes full advantage. The hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," follows. Beautifully arranged with a light Latin rhythm, it is a tribute to those lost to the pandemic. The bouncy Latin rhythms of Stafford's "Mi a Mia," feature impassioned trumpet and saxophone, a percussion solo from Acuna but Barth's piano break steals the show.
Other covers include Horace Silver
's "Room 608," which serves as an agile free workout for the whole band. Beginning with slow bass and piano over Blake's brushwork, Billy Strayhorn
's "Blood Count," arranged by Barth, gradually gathers pace with a bluesy melody. McCoy Tyner
's "You Taught My Heart To Sing" is given a classy and moving arrangement with flowing piano from Barth and impressive breaks from Stafford.
"Two Hearts As One," finds Stafford playing at his most poignant and sensitive, supported by a bowed bass solo from Wong. Barth's "Manaus at Dusk," features trumpet and piano solos with Warfield's sax with Acuna's intense percussion coming to the fore. The album finishes with "Wruth's Blues." raucous and rowdy, it is a first-rate closer.
The album is thoroughly engaging and entertaining throughout. Whilst Stafford takes top billing, all his collaborators stretch out, taking their full share of the limelight and providing stellar support. Stafford's melodic trumpet playing has strength and vulnerability for which he has received numerous accolades. To date, he has featured on over 130 recordings, this has to be one of his best.
Between Two Worlds; Great Is Thy Faithfulness; Mi a Mia; Two Hearts As One; Room 608; Blood Count; Manus At Dusk; You Taught My Heart To Sing; Wruth's Blues.
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