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Harlem Sunset is the impressive debut recording from powerhouse drummer Chip White originally released in 1994 on the Postcards label which is now brought to us by way of Arkadia Records. Here, White shines as a composer, offering a series of compositions that convey an at times, hard-edged tenderness featuring killer support from an estimable bunch comprising saxophonist Gary Bartz, trombonist Robin Eubanks, vibraphonist Steve Nelson bassist Buster Williams and trumpeter Claudio Roditi. The proceedings get off to a furious start with the piece titled, “Another Planet which is a climactic burner brimming with sharp punctual choruses, an expansive, wide-open feel enhanced by sharp ensemble work, expressionistic soloing and White’s fierce drumming. Oh, and by the way – we could listen to Gary Bartz’ gorgeous tone and richly melodic phrasing all day........
“I Want To Talk” is a multicolored ballad featuring Bartz’ lush, soaring-to-the-heavens alto work. “Club 609” is a Bop-ish swing with bright horn arrangements and upbeat soloing by Roditi, Eubanks and Bartz as the loose vibe, sweet-tempered arrangement and memorable melodies go straight to the heart. No messing around here, these pieces are tight, to the point and leave a lasting impression! White investigates some complex polyrhythms as he sweeps across his toms and performs rapid triplets on “The Wizard”. Steve Nelson stretches on the cool, sleek “Circle Dance” in tandem with Bartz’ laid back yet sumptuous soprano sax solo. The band pull out the stops on “We (to Kristen and Me)” as White and Williams dutifully purvey multi-layered rhythmic textures often integrating samba beats into the rapid pulse.
Harlem Sunset is a fine showcase for Chip White’s talents as a tunesmith, bandleader and technician. Each piece strikes a significant chord while the up-tempo flow and memorable charts equate to a recording you are not likely to forget! * * * * ½
Gary Bartz; Saxophones: Robin Eubanks; Trombone: Steve Nelson; Vibes: Claudio Roditi; Trumpet, Flugelhorn: Buster Williams; Drums
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.