The Canadian label Sackville is known for its unique catalogue of superb Avant-Garde music and engaging trad-jazz recordings. So its 1976 Bones Blues is a bit of an anomaly as it documents a modern mainstream session that drummer Pete Magadini led and featured California based saxophonist Don Menza.
Five standards and two originals comprise the delightful and lively program that is, nevertheless, safely bop-based. Menza penned the soulful title track that has a loose and infectious swing to it. Menza's fiery, acerbic blustering tenor lines contrast and complement, Toronto native, pianist Wray Downes' cool, unhurried cascade of complex phrases. Fellow Torontonian, bassist Dave Young takes a brief but virtuosic fast paced solo while Magadini trades bars with Menza with elegance and reserved dynamism leading to the energetic conclusion.
Young's own intriguing composition "What a Time We Had" has a folky flavor and a deceptive simplicity. Downes opens with emotive vamps ushering in Young's own mellifluous performance. Menza matches Young's lyricism with his lilting graceful improvisation. Menza and Young take a couple of turns in the spotlight and as the piece progresses it becomes more intricately embellished, poetic and evocative.
Menza showcases his breezy expansive tone on "Old Devil Moon." His saxophone glides effortlessly and weaves an elaborate and melodic extemporization with sophistication and passion. The rhythm section adds an exuberant flair with Downes' percussive, bluesy keys, Young's lithe, bowed bass and Magadini's thunderous drums.
Two takes of trumpeter Miles Davis' "Freddie Freeloader" demonstrate the band's versatility as they interpret each version distinctly without altering the tune's essence. The quartet demonstrates a suave swagger on both renditions while playing and embellishing the theme with crisp, effervescence on one and heady, flowing tones on the other.
This charming and curious record sheds light on four woefully underexposed and supremely talented musicians. True, there is nothing adventurous or unusually provocative about the disc but it offers a rare glimpse of these artists,' particularly Don Menza's, unique style. This Delmark reissue rescues yet another compelling album from obscurity.
Old Devil Moon; Freddie Freeloader; Poor Butterfly; Solar; I Remember Clifford; What a
Time We Had; Bones Blues; Freddie Freeloader, No. 2.
Don Menza: tenor saxophone; Wray Downes: piano; Dave Young: bass; Pete Magadini:
A young artist exhibits his work for the first time. An art critic is in attendance. The critic says, "would you like my opinion on your work?" "Yes," says the artist. "It's worthless," says the critic. The artist replies "I know, but tell me anyway."