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On Broken Shadows his wonderful second album, Chad Eby doffs his proverbial hat to the magnificent American music that came before him and in doing so, puts it in the current context. He also goes a step further, adding not only his own vocal-style interpretations of music from Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, Thad Jones, Ornette Coleman and Branford Marsalis, but also a masterful last post in four parts he calls "Epitaph." This tribute is played in characterfor Dewey Redman, Steve Lacy, Jackie McLean and Ray Charles. And, as if this were not enough, Eby performs two magnificent ballads, both written for his children.
Eby is a master of tone, and much of what he does on this album seeks to explore the tonal center of the music he has elected to perform. On Thad Jones' "Tip-Toe" for instance he wields his soprano saxophone like a probing tonal stick as he pokes at the song until he gets to the heart of its skipping melody. From here he dances outward in colorful whorls around its simple central theme. On "Orange Was The Color of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk," Eby turns a large ensemble tune into a spare escapade for his tenor. In then appears to dip in and out of a magnificent tonal palette to bring Mingus' complex chart to life in all its harmonic and rhythmic complexity, even as it turns a page on the tune itself. His solo in the deep end of the song is spare and thoughtful, yet resplendent in the effusive character of the Mingus original. Eby's folksy interpretation of Tom Waits's wonderful "I'm Still Here" sets the timbre of his saxophone against Doug Wamble's acoustic guitar in a gruff, sensuous, and memorable almost-vocal rendition of the Waits classic.
The four-part suite "Epitaph" brings to life four unique characters in music by exploring the tonal personality of each. On Part I, Eby plays counterpoint to Branford Marsalis' robust tenor with his own ponderous horn, dancing around the tune's shifting pulse. On Part II Eby's soprano conjures a masterful hologram of Lacy, while on Part III of "Epitaph" the alto howls in true "J-Mac" fashion rousing the bebop of this famous ghost. This suite concludes with a soulful yet sexy homage to Ray Charles. In its visual nature it is as if these four legends were captured in a majestic tonal frieze.
Chad Eby paints his own charts from the gorgeous palette of sound that he brings to this date. "Mira" and "Little You (For Spenser)" are simple but heartfelt ballads that only a special love can bring to life. This sheer naked sensitivity surfaces on Ellington's "Sunset And The Mockingbird" and then again on a magnificent soprano solo reading of the Duke's "The Single Petal Of A Rose."
Jason Marsalis is the relatively hidden rhythmic wonder from the famous Marsalis dynasty, and Eby gives him exquisite exposure here. The melodic dexterity of bassist Steve Haines also shines through, as he and Jason Marsalis join Eby on this wondrous journey.
Track Listing: Tip-Toe; Mira; Epitaph I--Doo-Wee-Inn (For Dewey Redman); Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk; Little You (For Spenser); Epitaph II--Line For Lackritz (For Steve Lacy); I'm Still Here; Sentinel; Broken Shadows; Sunset And The Mockingbird; Epitaph III--J-Mac (For Jackie McLean); Epitaph IV--The Kid From Albany (For Ray Charles); The Single Petal Of A Rose.
Personnel: Chad Eby: saxophones; Steve Haines: bass; Jason Marsalis: drums; Doug Wamble: guitar (7); Branford Marsalis (3, 8).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.