Adam Shulman Sextet: Full Tilt

Jack Bowers By

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In music, as in life, not every new voice is worth hearing. Here's one that is. Full Tilt, the fifth CD by San Francisco-born and based pianist Adam Shulman's sextet, is a throwback to those halcyon days when bop was king and giants like Diz, Bird, Miles, Max Roach, Hank Mobley, Benny Golson, Horace Silver, Wardell Gray, Lee Morgan, Kenny Clarke, Clifford Brown, Sonny Stitt, J.J. Johnson, Hampton Hawes, Freddie Hubbard, Milt Jackson, Kenny Dorham, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon and their kin were its noble emissaries.

Although the album was recorded for Cellar Live, it would have been right at home on Prestige or Blue Note, the sovereign labels during the bop regency of the 1950s and '60s. On the one hand, Shulman's radiant charts, underlined by delightful harmonies and rhythmic patterns, emulate that glorious era while on the other proving decisively that superior music is indeed timeless. For the record, Shulman wrote seven of the album's nine numbers and arranged all of them. Several sound like they could have come straight from the Jazz Messengers or Clifford Brown / Max Roach libraries, and there are deep bows elsewhere to Cedar Walton ("Fantasy in D Flat") and Bobby Timmons (the overtly named "Mr. Timmons"). The ensemble is equally taut and assured on the lone standard, Matt Dennis / Tom Adair's poignant "The Night We Called It a Day," and Shulman's heartfelt eulogy, "San Francisco National Cemetery."

Speaking of the ensemble, Shulman is fortunate to have found and gathered around him a team of blue-chip sidemen who evidently are not only as passionate about bop as he is but are able to translate that ardor into action and improvise in that style about as well as anyone. Trumpeter Mike Olmos, alto Lyle Link and tenor Patrick Wolff share the front line while Shulman, bassist John Wiitala and drummer Evan Hughes comprise a stalwart rhythm section that could have held its ground with any during the heralded Bop Era. Without singling anyone out for special praise, suffice to say that the solos by all hands (including the leader) are as keen and resourceful as those one might expect from their venerable predecessors. Indeed, close your eyes and you may start to believe that some of those hallowed patriarchs have actually made the scene for one last gig. They haven't, of course, but Shulman's time-shifting sextet is beyond any doubt the next best thing.

Track Listing

Fantasy in D Flat; Lonesome Dream; The Conqueror; San Francisco National Cemetery; Yeah . . . So; 4th Street Strut; Full Tilt; The Night We Called It a Day; Mr.Timmons.


Adam Shulman: piano; Mike Olmos: trumpet; Lyle Link: alto sax; Patrick Wolff: tenor sax; John Wiitala: bass; Evan Hughes: drums.

Album information

Title: Full Tilt | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Cellar Live


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