During the golden age of the big bands, composers wrote with the entire ensemble as a singular voice, with the soloist (and solos) connected to the concept of the song as a whole. The leading exponent of this era was Duke Ellington, whose writing was built around that awareness; and his songs have withstood the test of time. Listening to bassist George DeLancey on his self-titled debut release, one cannot help but think of the Duke, and the fine art of jazz composition. Though DeLancey may not have the equivalent orchestra at his disposal, his ability to get the most from his players is impressive, and sets him aside from other composers of this generation.
From the opening bass lines of "Prologue," it is easy to tell this is a bass players record. "Michelangelo," falls into a mellow groove, featuring Mike Sailors on flugelhorn, as DeLancey stretches out for a few bars. Pianist Aaron Diehl sets up the chordal comping and takes the first solo on "The Demon," a blistering hard-bop excursion; Sailors, (now on trumpet) takes turns with Stacy Dillard on tenor. Set around a light-hearted waltz tempo, "Lap Of Luxury," catches Dillard on soprano, rising above the dense horn section. The Duke comes to mind again with "In Repose," a fully orchestrated ballad, filled with a lush horn arrangement.
The alto sax of Caleb Wheeler Curtis interacts with guts and flair on the relentless "Falling Down," before DeLancey brings down the pace for a tempered breather. The walking bass on "Two Step Away," recalls the vintage bands playing large ballrooms under crystal chandeliers, with the pianist taking the spotlight. Then it's back to the hard-bop frenzy of "Complaint," where trombonist Walter Harris trades licks with Tony Lustig on the baritone, before they all give it up for the drummer, Lawrence Leathers. Dillard returns on alto for "Little Lover," a tranquil ballad which revolves around his horn; leading into the finale "Epilogue," which flashes back to the New Orleans second line attack, as the band marches off into the night.
It is hard to believe that this is DeLancey's debut as a leader. His command of the elements in harmony, melody, and rhythm is superb, and displays a sophisticated sense of swing, coupled with maturity in composition and arrangements. This is serious jazz music played by an octet that sounds like a full blown orchestra running on high octane fuel. The musicians are all on the same page and set on the common goal to create the music as an entity in itself.
Prologue; Michelangelo; The Demon; Laps Of Luxury; In Repose; falling
Down; Two-Step Away; Complaint; Little Lover; Epilogue.
George DeLancey: bass; Aaron Diehl: piano; Lawrence Leathers: drums;
Stacy Dillard: soprano (2, 4, 6, 9) tenor sax (1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10); Caleb
Wheeler Curtis: alto sax; tony Lusitg: baritone sax (1, 5, 8, 10) tenor sax
(2, 4, 6); Mike Sailors: trumpet, flugelhorn; Walter Harris: trombone.
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