Art Blakey would always open with a theme. Over the years, the theme changed, just as did Bu and his musicians. But the context was always the same. "Pay attention, y'all. This is Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers." If a listener is old enough to remember that moment, and willing to make due allowance for a Philly band "in the tradition," well, there you are. "Spin the Context" starts us. "The Old Days, Whenever They Were," is right on target, whatever it is, with smoking ensemble work, and Elliot Bild breaking out on a Freddy Hubbardish-excursion. Are you paying attention? Lucas Brown will be your guide. Michael Hudson-Casanova layers on a rocking sax solo, slowly building from the bottom of the horn to the top. And then, stop.
On "KW," the band comes out smoking again. And it has echoes of Speak no Evil. For listeners of a certain age and sensibility, what do you say? Congratulations for getting it right? Not imitative, but reminiscent? Hudson-Casanova's composition's bear cryptic names, but end up, if only as a shard, in your ear. "Yeah, Exactly." Ok, exactly what? "Abandoner" Really, by whom? Hudson's horn sort of gets into your head, maybe your past. Just as you think bop trombone is basically dead, there is Nicholas Lombardelli With another solid out chorus. "droogs?" Well, if they are good enough for Adam Schiff, another cultural signpost, why argue? At which point Sandy Eldred holds forth with a thoughtful bass solo. And yet another lovely sax line in the lead.
This is billed as a Philly band. It is hard for a native son not to say, "Hmm, yeah, the Schuylkill Expressway" at City Avenue on a Friday afternoon at 5 PM. But one suspects any number of people have sworn their way through "Echoes." Where did these idiots learn to drive? Sorry, but that is what comes to mind. Marginal steps. Two forward. One back. Yeah, you can cut in. Today. Not tomorrow.
Full disclosure. This is an exceptional recording by a killer band. Never argue with a Philadelphian. "Like Glaciers," these people can hold you up forever, but make plenty of melodic progress along the way. Like Monk said? You dig?
Spin The Context, The Old Days Whenever They Were, K.W., Yea Exactly, Abandoner, droogs, Echoes, Like
Glaciers, The Sage, Ravensong, Spin it Back