All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review

175

John McNeil: East Coast Cool

Troy Collins By

Sign in to view read count
On East Coast Cool, trumpeter John McNeil set out to reinterpret the classic West Coast cool jazz sound of Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker's piano-less quartets. McNeil's career stretches back almost three decades, playing alongside Horace Silver, Slide Hampton, and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, as well as Mulligan himself. As a member of Gerry Mulligan's group in the 1980s, McNeil comes at this material with both knowledgeable authority and respectful appreciation. What he does with it, however, is the sort of thing his former boss wouldn't have dreamed of.

While these tunes are thematically inspired by the classic Mulligan-Baker quartets, all but two are McNeil originals, written in the restrained, but harmonically rich lyricism of West Coast cool jazz. Only "Bernie's Tune" and "GAB" are covers. But this is forward thinking, open-ended, and malleable music, not rigid traditionalism. McNeil has established rules here—rules made to be bent, but not broken. Drummer Matt Wilson and bassist John Hebert are given free reign to vary the meter, rhythm, and flow of the pieces, most notably on "Delusions" and especially on their radical cover of "Bernie's Tune."

Metric modulation and rubato tempos take the place of Mulligan's requirement of strict, straight-ahead timekeeping. Employing a standard device, "Internal Hurdles" features the front line trading fours, albeit over a pulse-driven tempo—no exact time signature is enforced; swing is implied, not overstated. Chordal structures are insinuated and loosely applied, but never enforced as limitations. "A Time To Go" and "Wanwood," while structurally and harmonically unfettered, are lyrically gorgeous ballads that wouldn't sound out of place in the repertoire of either Baker or Mulligan.

While the members of the quartet adopt the patented cool jazz harmonies and melodies espoused by the masters, they are never limited by them. Baritone saxophonist Allan Chase honks and brays when the mood suits him, and McNeil's timbre bends under the weight of his conviction to break from accepted tonality to embrace the dissonant spaces between notes. For example, "Delusions" alternates a slinky noir groove with a spastic angular bop riff, McNeil's trumpet solo gradually building in intensity until his cathartic split tones blend with Wilson's increasingly frenzied press rolls. The ensemble snaps back into action for a sprightly vamp to underpin Chase's fleet baritone solo. With impressive melodic dexterity, Chase delivers precision lines that belie the cumbersome nature of the big horn.

Enjoyably accessible yet intriguingly innovative, McNeil and his quartet have taken Mulligan and Baker's piano-less quartet inspired music and drawn an overt parallel to Ornette Coleman's piano-less quartet innovations of the same time period, building a conceptual link between the two.


Track Listing: Deadline, A Time to Go, Brothr Frank, Bernie's tune, Duet #1, Delusions, Wanwood, Internal Hurdles, Duet #2, Waltz Helios, Schoenberg's Piano Concerto, GAB

Personnel: John McNeil: trumpet; Alan Chase: baritone saxophone; John Hebert: bass; Matt Wilson: drums

Title: East Coast Cool | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: OmniTone

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Brother Frank

Brother Frank

John McNeil
East Coast Cool

CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Hush Point III

Hush Point III

Sunnyside Records
2017

buy
John McNeil: Hush Point

John McNeil: Hush...

Sunnyside Records
2014

buy
Hush Point

Hush Point

Sunnyside Records
2014

buy
Hush Point

Hush Point

Sunnyside Records
2013

buy
 

Chill Morn He Climb...

Sunnyside Records
2011

buy
Chill Morn He Climb Jenny

Chill Morn He Climb...

Sunnyside Records
2010

buy

Related Articles

Read For You CD/LP/Track Review
For You
by Patrick Burnette
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Espace Cardin 1977 CD/LP/Track Review
Espace Cardin 1977
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review
Song of No Regrets
by Peter Hoetjes
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Ay  Que Boogaloo! CD/LP/Track Review
Ay Que Boogaloo!
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 12, 2018
Read When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions CD/LP/Track Review
When Sunny Gets Blue: Spring ’68 Sessions
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 12, 2018
Read Lake Geneva CD/LP/Track Review
Lake Geneva
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 11, 2018
Read "Up All Night" CD/LP/Track Review Up All Night
by Doug Collette
Published: January 1, 2018
Read "Sound Plan" CD/LP/Track Review Sound Plan
by Geno Thackara
Published: May 6, 2018
Read "Currents, Constellations" CD/LP/Track Review Currents, Constellations
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: April 14, 2018
Read "Northern Migrations" CD/LP/Track Review Northern Migrations
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 22, 2018
Read "Be Cool" CD/LP/Track Review Be Cool
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: July 7, 2018
Read "Live @ Savanna Jazz" CD/LP/Track Review Live @ Savanna Jazz
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 29, 2018