There's something special about a nonet: small enough to have its own personality, yet large enough to sound at times akin to a full-size big band. Bassist John Lang
leads a first-class nonet on Earotica
, his fourth album as leader.
Having given Lang's last disc a rather lukewarm appraisal almost two years ago, it is a pleasure to note that his new album is superior in every respect. Gone are the desultory funk and rock beats, replaced by a straight-ahead post-bop stance that suits Lang's superlative ensemble to a T. Lang makes the most of his good fortune, writing eleven exhilarating charts and deftly arranging the album's other number, Horace Silver
's sinuous "St. Vitus Dance."
Lang notes that everyone in the ensemble was his first choice, and he didn't miss the mark with any of them. Bruce Harris
comprises the "trumpet section," ditto John Mosca
for the trombones. Each of them is splendid, as are the woodwinds: alto Chris Byars
, tenor Nick Hempton
, baritone Gary Smulyan
. As to the rhythm, it rests in the capable hands of Lang, pianist Roberta Piket
, guitarist Pete McCann
and drummer Peter Retzlaff
. Percussionist Kevin Winard
, organist Kinny Landrum and pianist Bill Finizio are listed as guests, but there is no mention of what they actually do or when they do it. They more than likely sit in on the ballad "So You Say," as it sounds like that could be themat least Winard and Finizio.
Smulyan takes the first solo, followed by Byars and Piket, on the breezy opener, "Poetry in Commotion," which precedes the far-from-chilly "January." Piket, Lang writes, was rehearsing the changes to his ballad "In My Fallitude," and what she produced was so pleasing he decided to include it as an intro to the theme. "Fallitude" is followed by the groovy "Flotando" and soulful "Blues for Faddis," Lang's bow to Jon Faddis
on which the renowned trumpeter's protégé, Harris, takes the first solo. "Sight Unseen" is an amiable charmer, as are "Payable in Hats" and "Schoolin,'" with enticing solos along the way by Smulyan, Piket, Harris, Hempton, Lang, McCann and Mosca. "St. Vitus Dance" opens with a brass chorale, then settles into a buoyant straight-ahead groove behind glossy solos by Piket, Mosca, Hempton, Byars and Retzlaff. Lang takes an extended solo on the blithesome finale, "Trepidation."
The difference between Earotica
and its immediate predecessor is almost night and day, as is its appraisal, which by any measure is excellent. Lang's change of course is indeed a pleasure to hear and appreciate.
Poetry in Commotion; January; Piano Intro; In My Fallitude; Flotando; Blues for Faddis; Sight
Unseen; Payable in Hats; Schoolin’; The St. Vitus Dance; So You Say; Trepidation.
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