While guitarist Sheryl Bailey's A New Promise
was a tribute to another tremendously talented female guitaristthe late Emily Remler
For All Those Living
touches on a wide variety of figures, both here and gone. Bailey's music pays direct tribute to fellow guitarists, like Jack Wilkins
("Wilkinsburg"), Masa Sasaki ("Masa's Bag") and the late Jimmy Wyble
, but she also looks beyond her own instrument with an homage to the great Hank Mobley
, the man that jazz critic Leonard Feather
dubbed "the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone."
Those familiar with Bailey's guitar work from her trio recordings will encounter the same spirit and zest in her playing here, but the presentation is a bit different. The rollicking organ trio format is replaced by a more nuanced quartet. With the organ ousted from her group, Bailey brings on pianist Jim Ridl
, and he proves to be a perfect match in every way. When Bailey shifts into Wes Montgomery
mode on "Masa's Bag," Ridl picks up on the overall vibe of the piece, delivering a spirited solo that places technique and soul on equal footing. Ridl even threatens to steal the show when he ratchets up the excitement with his superb solo on "29-11."
While each member of Bailey's quartet is a fine player, and soloists in their own right, their attention to clarity and articulation is even more important than their chops. Drummer Shingo Okudaira
doesn't buy into the washy-cymbals-are-better philosophy, and his dry ride cymbal is clear and focused. Bassist Gary Wang
makes everything feel good, and, while Ridl and Bailey certainly play their fair share of notes, they never sacrifice cleanliness for the sake of being flashy.
While all of Bailey's compositions have an understated and hip allure, no two pieces are exactly alike: she delivers waltzes, both spry ("For All Those Living") and relatively soothing ("For A Russian Princess"); passes out attractive and simple melody lines over a groove in five ("29-11"); and cooks over some sizzling swing ("Moblin'"), all with confidence and a sense of purpose. On occasion, the solos end up outshining the songs that contain them, as on "Wilkinsburg," but that's a reflection on the individual strengths of the musicians, not a weakness in the writing. For All Those Living
is a fine showcase for Sheryl Bailey's writing and playing, also doubling as an important philanthropic project. Bailey has long been connected with the Ronald McDonald House of New York City, and she'll be donating a portion of all sales to this worthwhile organization, making this album a rare marriage of superb music and charitable sensitivity.