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Wayne Coniglio / Scott Whitfield: Fast Friends

Jack Bowers By

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Clever title, this. Trombonists Wayne Coniglio and Scott Whitfield. Friends? For almost two decades. Fast? Listen to a few bars of "Les Demoiselles de Rocheforte," "Fried Pickles" or "Bernie's Tune" and decide for yourself. The opinion here is what they do on trombone (tenor and bass) is fast indeed. Having said that, however, it should be pressed home that there is so much more than speed to appreciate on this superb new album; for example, an abundance of warmth, tastefulness and perception, traits that are too often in short supply these days.

Yes, a two-trombone front line can be a bit much (apologies to Kai and J.J.). To offset that, Coniglio plays tenor trombone on only two tracks ("Rocheforte," the standard "I'm Confessin'"), bass trombone the rest of the way. It's a nice contrast to Whitfield's higher-register work, and nowhere more engaging than on the slower numbers ("When I Look in Your Eyes," Sam Rivers' lyrical "Beatrice" or Roger Neumann's gentle waltz, "3/4 of the Time," on which overdubbing produces an entire "trombone section"). To heighten the contrast, mutes are employed on "I'm Confessin'" and Toshiko Akiyoshi's seductive "I Ain't Gonna Ask No More" (a showcase for Coniglio's sonorous bass trombone). Leslie Bricusse wrote "When I Look in Your Eyes," Steve Turre the gospel-infused "Ray's Collard Greens." Coniglio composed "Fried Pickles," Whitfield the groovy "2nd Avenue Stroll" and easygoing "Flan," the former for 'bone master Carl Fontana, the latter for Bob Flanigan, a trombonist and lead singer with the Four Freshmen.

Talented as Coniglio and Whitfield are, they could have been undone by a less-than-able rhythm section. Luckily, that is not the case here. Pianist Ken Kehner, bassist Eric Warren and drummer Kevin Gianino are more than up to the task at hand, not only comping superbly but appending eloquent solos whenever called upon to do so. The front-liners, meanwhile, play with vigor and awareness, underscoring their expertise no matter what the mood or tempo. Fast Friends they are, and long may they remain so. One listen to their album and you may be pleased to find you've made some new friends as well.

Track Listing: Les Demoiselles de Rocheforte; When I Look in Your Eyes; Ray’s Collard Greens; I’m Confessin’; Fried Pickles; Beatrice; Bernie’s Tune; ¾ of the Time; Flan (for Bob Flanigan); I Ain’t Gonna Ask No More; 2nd Avenue Stroll.

Personnel: Wayne Coniglio: trombone (1, 4), bass trombone; Scott Whitfield: trombone; Ken Kehner: piano; Eric Warren: bass; Kevin Gianino: drums.

Title: Fast Friends | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Summit Records

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