Danny Grissett: Encounters & Waldron Mahdi Ricks

Elliott Simon By

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Ghostliness permeates both pianist Danny Grissett's Encounters and trumpeter/ flugelhornist Waldron Mahdi Ricks' eponymous album. Grissett is on Ricks' debut as a leader and leads a trio for his sophomore effort.

The sessions showcase two sides of the young pianist—one who can most certainly swing in a modern jazz way, but who also has the rarer ability to convey subtle feeling through touch and comps. Ricks, especially on flugelhorn, appears to be a likeminded romantic whose compositions, delicate tone and elegant voicings channel myriad exquisite emotions in the context of his top-flight sextet.

Danny Grissett
Criss Cross

Grissett came to New York from Los Angeles with a classicist's mastery of technique and over the past five years he has made something of a name for himself supporting the likes of saxophonist Vincent Herring and trumpet player Nicholas Payton. Encounters extends Promises (Criss Cross, 2006), his debut as a leader and finds him delving into realms that are a bit more creative and complex.

The depth of the originals is what most impresses, not only for compositional strength but also as an important cohesive group dynamic. The opener, "Hopscotch," is a quick stepping, rhythmically intriguing take on the children's game, and "Waltz for Billy" touchingly fêtes drummer Billy Higgins. Harmonics and understated percussive touches underscore the trepidation that can accompany "A New Beginning" and an egalitarian group ethos steers the title cut into free-formish waters.

Waldron Mahdi Ricks
Waldron Mahdi Ricks

Ricks, a Detroit native, taps drummer Nasheet Waits and alto saxophonists Jorge Sylvester and Jaleel Shaw to round out his debut. This is made up primarily of originals that allow plenty of room for stretching out. Despite the horn-heavy lineup, Ricks maintains a certain translucent vibe. This is due to his gorgeous tone and an unhurried presentation that allows the inherent soulfulness present in these tunes to develop.

Even on the boppers like "Wee Bees in Heaven," the alto horn voicings, though crisp, maintain a beautiful mellowness. On the historical ballad "Bottom Rail on Top," Hicks and Grissett work exceedingly well together retelling the story of a former slave who, as a union soldier, captures his previous master during the Civil War.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Hopscotch; Waltz for Billy; A New Beginning; Encounters; Toy Tune; Sunrise; It Could Happen to You; Never Let Me Go; Git!.

Personnel: Danny Grissett: piano; Vicente Archer: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums.

Waldron Mahdi Ricks

Tracks: Bottom Rail On Top; Don't Ask; June My Dear; Playground; The Last Dawn; Wee Bees In Heaven; Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

Personnel: Waldron Mahdi Ricks: trumpet, flugelhorn; Danny Grissett: piano; Vicente Archer: bass; Nasheet Waits: drums; Jorge Sylvester: alto saxophone; Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone.


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