Collaboration and teamwork are always essential elements in any effort that takes the total sum of the parts to create a collective outcome. This is even more so a part of the equation in music. Music is mathematics, but what makes the experience even more enjoyable is the creativity and heart that each player puts into the execution of the mathematically based language. This is immediately evident in Dave Askren and Jeff Benedict's latest project Come Together. The two leaders have been collaborating musically for many years and the result is always an exceptional listen. Their latest effort includes Joe Bagg on organ and Paul Romaine on drums, together they create a kinetic and collaborative sound that resonates, with winning arrangements of well-known classics and inspired original compositions.
The title track is given an original approach while still paying homage to the Beatles' original ideal of this legendary tune. With a relaxed 7/4 groove that has a deep pocket, the band unfolds the melody with great result. Benedict and Askren keep the well-known melody clear and always in focus. Benedict's alto saxophone is up first. His style is exceedingly melodic and based in the bop/post-bop tradition. The solo is built patiently with motif development and increases in complexity and activity. The band follows his lead and it is obvious these guys have a long history of playing together. Akren's guitar style is full of soul. He too comes from the bop/post-bop tradition, and his lines have a beautiful chromatic fluidity to them that encapsulates chord tones that lead his lines through the harmony. The "shout chorus" is meaningful. More small groups should do this. Solid writing adds to the interest of the tune. Romain's organ solo is a pure jazz soul solo and in line with the language of the band.
"On It!" is a memorable, medium up-tempo, hard-bop inspired tune written by Askren. The melody is catchy and the band swings hard on this one. Askren's solo is exciting and his rhythm is right in the pocket as his warm arch-top guitar sings out his jazz vocabulary of joy. Benedict's solo is so clear in its linear direction, you can hear its resolution coming from a mile away.
Original compositions like this keep the heritage and soul of hard-bop alive, and when you have a group like this there is an evolution in the sound and shape in the music. The long-standing tradition of trading phrases with the drummer is honored at the end of the tune. There are quotes throughout the selection and the band digs deep in listening. When something is not broke don't fix it, might truly apply to the longstanding musical collective of Askren and Benedict. They offer the listener a unique experience of groove-based compositions, and deceivingly easy to listen music, that actually offers a complex carbonation of effervescent tunes, that will excite and engage the listening experience, even for the most discerning jazz aficionado.
Track Listing: Cheese Grits; Come Together; Nardis; Moments Notice; Hear This; On It; Pineapple Head; Willow Weep for Me; Groove Merchant; Deed I Bu.
Personnel: Jeff Benedict: saxophone; Dave Askren: guitar; Joe Bagg: organ; Paul Romain: drums.
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