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John McNeil: East Coast Cool

Jim Santella By

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Celebrating the piano-less quartet sound that Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker brought us over 40 years ago, trumpeter John McNeil reflects on their individual spirit with a free jazz interpretation of his own. As he applies Mulligan's arranging principles to free music, his quartet introduces a unique sound that remains both cool and intense. McNeil, 57, spent some time working with Mulligan, and he was asked to write arrangements for a Gerry Mulligan tribute band after the baritone saxophonist passed away. That project inspired this one.

McNeil's trumpet has a shadowy tone that he's employed on numerous free jazz projects. His tone is shallow, but his meaning is heartfelt. The trumpeter combines that unique spirit with a hardy baritone saxophone resonance that closely resembles Baker and Mulligan in tonal concept. Add a walking bass and swinging drummer and you get the original. But that's not the idea here.

McNeil and his fellow artists push the envelope. Sure, they swing, trade fours, and stretch out with exciting solo spots. But here, the quartet weaves a mysterious ring around each element and leaves a trail of avant proportions. Allan Chase's big, burly baritone saxophone rings out with a powerful voice. Double bass and drums color with interesting patterns that are anything but ordinary. And McNeil's one-of-a-kind trumpet allure encircles each piece with a personal stamp that speaks of freedom in jazz.

Brother Frank sashays with a mellow blues hue. "Deadline hurries up-tempo with places to go and people to see. "Delusions comes with built-in surprises that reinforce McNeil's free spirit. "Waltz Helios drives with a traditional majestic spirit, while McNeil's nod to "Schoenberg scrambles with a happy twelve-tone appearance. "Bernie's Tune and "GAB recall the original Mulligan piano-less quartet vividly with a fresh interpretation.

From one pioneer to another, McNeil and crew honor the memory of Gerry Mulligan with a fresh voice of their own. Each selection brings a welcome surprise.


Track Listing: Deadline; A Time to Go; Brother Frank; Bernie

Personnel: John McNeil: trumpet; Allan Chase: baritone saxophone; John Hebert: bass; Matt Wilson: drums, slide whistle.

Title: East Coast Cool | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: OmniTone


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