Powerhouse drummer Colin Stranahan is a seventeen-year-old student at the Denver School of the Arts. Given an early jazz education from family, he has already made a vivid impression as a composer and bandleader and has received attention from jazz notables, including trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, who wrote the liner notes. If I'm not mistaken, Tony Williams started out with Miles Davis at the same age.
The only tune not composed by Stranahan, John Coltrane's hard bop piece "26-2" opens this album with a flourish. It is classic Blue Note circa 1960, with all hands taking brief solos. Everyone sounds authentic with a brief melody statement, three minutes of solos and then back to the head. Likewise, "Not Yesterday, Not Today, Not Tomorrow," a 12 minute-plus romp, starts with a Jazz Messenger-type riff, then follows with sharp and incisive statements from Michael Bailey on tenor sax, Kenny Warren on trumpet, Jim Stranahan (Colin's father) on soprano sax, and then guest Ron Miles on trumpet. On both this tune and the closer "Now I'm Up," the leader gets to show off his percussion skills with powerful solos. As a change of pace, "The Arrival" is presented as a piano trio ballad with Jenkins demonstrating a lyrical penchant and an impressive bass solo from Ken Walker with Shanahan staying with brushwork throughout the number.
I was somewhat disappointed that the eleven minute "As If The Dream Were Untold," which morphs into a pleasant jazz waltz statement, begins as a free jazz excursion, first from Jenkins' dissonant piano and then from Ron Miles' trumpet work. The tune is based upon a nightmare that Shanahan experienced. Indeed, I was ready to move ahead to the next track when at the three minute mark the melody arrived.
All things considered, this is a special album, notwithstanding that most of the music was written by a seventeen-year-old. Given a normal set of circumstances, I suspect that we'll be hearing many good things from this young man and his music... and for that matter, his group.
Track Listing: 26-2, Romaine's Groove, As If The Dream Were Untold, The Arrival, Not Yesterday, Not Today,Not Tomorrow, Now I'm Up.
Personnel: Colin Stranahan, drums; Michael Bailey, tenor sax; Kenny Warren,trumpet; Jeff Jenkins,piano;
Ken Walker, bass with guests Ron Miles, trumpet (3,5); Jim Stranahan, soprano sax (3,5).
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinet player, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto sax player they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.
He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.
Even though he died before I ever sang professionally, he remains my inspiration and all my CDs are dedicated to him. I like to think that he'd like my music, since it's built on the foundation he handed down to me.