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Rather like a trampoline, trombonist Bob Ferrel’s Bon Voyage is firm around the perimeter, sags in the middle, then rebounds nicely, giving the listener some unexpected kicks along the way. Among them: recording the last two tracks onto wax cylinders (circa 1890) using a vintage 1905 Thomas Edison phonograph. If you’ve ever wondered how J.J. Johnson, Frank Rosolino and other Jazz masters of the Bop Era and beyond might have sounded had they been on the scene and able to record nearly a hundred years ago, this may be as close as you’ll come to learning the answer. Unfortunately, those cylinders couldn’t accommodate a whole lot of music, so track 10 (“Blues for the Century”) fades during Israel’s drum solo at 2:16, while Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” clocks in at 1:59 (including about 20 seconds or so of applause). The “historic” tracks are preceded by a 30–second introductory statement by Jann Parker. Ferrel’s guests, who don’t make an entrance until track 7 (J.J.’s “Lament”) are present on each of the “vintage” tracks with Elmo, Cutro and Ferrel soloing briefly on “Blues for the Century.” Returning to the present, the session opens well with the first of three sparkling originals by Augie Rivera, “124th & Ruiz,” on which Ferrel reveals some of his influences (he has worked with Benny Powell, Slide Hampton and Eddie Bert, among others, and a fragment of each one has adhered along with the inescapable traces of J.J., Rosolino, Kai Winding and Curtis Fuller, to name but a few). Rivera also wrote the easy–swinging “Blue Wild Flower” and turbulent, Latinized “Hurricane Bop.” Ferrel, who plays open on every track, uses multiphonics to good effect while playing unaccompanied on the title selection, which he also wrote; unfortunately, the tune itself sounds more like a scalar exercise than anything else. Coltrane’s “Brazilia,” the longest track at 14:29, isn’t one of his more absorbing works (and that’s being charitable). Everyone plays well, but there simply isn’t much of substance there on which to drape one’s musical wardrobe. Ferrel’s smooth and placid “Eulipian’s Lament” is next, followed by “Hurricane Bop,” the other “Lament” and Oliver Nelson’s Jazz standard, “Stolen Moments” (the last two of which introduce Ferrel’s guests, who do little more than trim the hedges in his musical garden). Ferrel is a splendid post–bop trombonist, and his sure–handed rhythm section shadows him every step of the way. Cochrane, a new name to me, fashions some striking right–handed phrases, while Hill and Israel know when to shout and when to whisper. Aside from the few indifferent moments noted above, an impressive and rewarding session.
Track listing: 124th & Ruiz; Blue Wild Flower; Bon Voyage; Brazilia; Eulipian’s Lament; Hurricane Bop; Lament; Stolen Moments; Edison Narration; Blues for the Century; Mood Indigo (61:13).
Bob Ferrel, trombone; Michael Cochrane, piano; Calvin Hill, bass; Yoron Israel, drums. Guest artists