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Jeff Rupert and Richard Drexler: Imagination

Geannine Reid By

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Saxophonist Jeff Rupert is a YAMAHA performing artist. His credits include recordings and tours with: Diane Schuur, Mel Torme, Kevin Mahogany, Ernestine Anderson, and Benny Carter's Grammy winning Harlem Renaissance. Jeff Rupert toured for fifteen years with Sam Rivers; four albums ensued, and from 1997-2002 he toured and recorded with Maynard Ferguson. Rupert is a Pegasus Distinguished Professor, Trustee Endowed Chair, and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Central Florida (UCF), and founder of Flying Horse Records.

Richard Drexler is a pianist, bassist, vocalist and composer/arranger from Bloomington-Normal Illinois, and has resided in central Florida since 1985. He has performed on 200 recordings; played piano in the Woody Herman Orchestra for over 20 years, played bass in trios of Kenny Drew, Jr.., Dick Hyman and others. Richard has toured for 16 years as pianist with electric bassist Jeff Berlin, and regularly performs in eleven orchestras on seven instruments, and in diverse settings as a featured soloist with Cheap Trick, and Saigon Kick.

The two have teamed up to create a wonderful duet recording entitled, Imagination. Recorded live over a two-night period at the Timucaua Arts White House in Orlando, Florida in 2015. With years of teaching and working their craft the two incorporated all that knowledge of harmony, melody, storytelling and rhythms into the duet context. The duet performs eight tracks, with one being a Rupert original and the others taken form the jazz catalog. The music is a prime example of jazz today and draws from the global musical traditions with a colorful, highly intelligent blend of modern jazz elements and aspects of modern classical, latin and salsa styles. This delightful work is clearly in the modern traditional-jazz camp, but retains a distinctive historical grounding, extending the scope of the listening audience. Rupert's breathy, warm and balanced sound caries the melody on the opening track, "Without a Song," a reserved resonance that fits the context is taken at first. However, Rupert's solo is a study in storytelling and clarity of line through articulation and phrase. Drexler's chordal colors are simply stunning. His mastery of voicings is superb, every interval is specifically placed and voice lead to the next. The open relaxed setting of a duet allows the listener to savor the skills of these two performers in an open and intimate setting.

Jobim's "A Felicidade" is a fine example of the modern classicism and latin mixture with the jazz tradition. Beginning with Drexler's cascading piano intro that can certainly be called 'Debussyian' in nature. Drexler's left hand keeps the gently latin sway as Rupert unfolds the melody. Drexler's solo lines weave in and out of his gorgeous voicings with well-placed accents in his lines, to keep the music moving forward. Rupert is a master of developing his solo statements. He methodically develops motifs into long musical passages of impeccable time and substance. It is also nice how the two keep the melody to the forefront during the soloing; truly masters of the art of storytelling.

Both leaders in this duet compliment the overall song enjoyment, their teamwork effort is clearly evident from the first notes, and a joy to listen to and experience. This is what maturity in playing sounds like, and it's a delight to hear.

Track Listing: Without a Song; I Can’t Help It; Snowfall; Strange Meadowlark; Imagination; A Felicidade; My Mistress’ Eyes; Soul Eyes.

Personnel: Jeff Rupert: tenor saxophone; Richard Drexler: piano.

Title: Imagination | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Self Produced

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CD/LP/Track Review
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