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Brett Sroka: Hearsay

Dan McClenaghan By

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Brett Sroka: Hearsay Brett Sroka's trombone moans in alone; the trumpet follows, then the tenor sax. The rhythm section sneaks in there on the sly, and the opener, Duke Ellington's "Hearsay" (from The Deep South Suite), churns into a rumbling, channeled cacophony of Jazz—capitol 'J'.

This is trombonist Brett Sroka's debut, and it bears out liner notes author Gary Sisco's assertion that jazz in the last decade has been experiencing an extremely fertile and creative period.

Hearsay is an ensemble effort, a sextet—trombone/trumpet/tenor sax front line, piano/bass/drums rhythm—though it may on an initial listen seem denser than that; an octet or more. This is a testament to Sroka's arranging and composing talents. Complex and intricate interplay, tricky but still geometical textures with enough solo slots to bring out the individual personalities of the instrumentalists.

The Ellington opener, almost fourteen minutes worth, is a driving tour de force. These guys shine with a well-justified confidence; but the highlight for this listener is the Sroka-penned "A Sound Caresses the Breast of a Negress". Mingus-onian title, Mingus-onian composition, with high profile pianist Jason Moran—Sroka's former classmate at Manhattan School of Music—switching to the Fender rhodes, giving a a glass wind chime resonance to the rhythm.

Then there's Charlie Shaver's (an underappreciated artist who did his best work in the mid-forties) "Undecided" that opens with Sroka's slow tempo, J.J. Johnson-like trombone solo before the song cranks up the to almost the fever pitch of the trumpeter's 1940's original.

Hearsay is an auspicious debut. With his arranging and compositional skills, and his trombone chops, comparisons to the late Trombone Master, J.J. Johnson are inevitable, and deserved.

Track Listing: Hearsay, Happy-Go-Lucky-Ism, Tabula Rasa, A Sound Caresses the Breast of a Negress, Undecided, Beloved

Personnel: Brett Sroka, trombone; Avishai Cohen, trumpet; Aaron Stewart, tenor sax; Jason Moran, piano; John sullivan, bass; Eric Harland, drums

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Blue Moon | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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