One of the next major talents yet to be discovered by the jazz public at large, trumpeter Jim Rotondi is a dynamo full of the kind of bristling trumpet fire that distinguished such predecessors as Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. Over the course of his first two Criss Cross dates, Introducing Jim Rotondi
and Jim’s Bop
Rotondi proved that he was a capable mainstream player with great promise in terms of developing his own voice. Now with Excursions
he goes to the head of the class with what has to be his finest work to date.
Leading what is essentially the cooperative One For All with drummer Kenny Washington spelling standby Joe Farnsworth at the drums, Rotondi works his way through a few standards and an original from his own pen, in addition to one apiece from Steve Davis and Eric Alexander. The title track is a solid standout, first heard on a Jackie McLean date featuring composer Davis. During the closing vamp, Rotondi quotes from “Pensativa,” further establishing the association with Hubbard. “What Is There To Say” is a mature ballad performance illuminating Rotondi’s burnished tone.
Hazeltine gets to strut his stuff with another one of his totally ingenious revamps. This time around he turns the usually delicate “Angel Eyes” into an active up-tempo romp that makes the most out of his voicings for the three-horn front line. Of course, Alexander is no slouch himself when it comes to the composition department. The sprightly “Jim’s Waltz” is of his invention and it has that beaming quality that marks his most blissful tunes, a repeated four-note vamp cunningly used to separate choruses.
Consistently stimulating, Excursions is yet another in a long line of significant Criss Cross sides and further testimony that the label indeed has something special in the guise of one Jim Rotondi.