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The latest in an ongoing series from Steeplechase, this third volume of concert tapes culled from Brad Goode’s fruitful association with elder improviser Von Freeman moves the action from Freeman’s familiar stomping grounds at the Jazz Showcase to the more venerable environs of the Green Mill. Also added to the formula this time out is the limber trombone work of Paul McKee, strengthening the tonal palette of the group but also subtracting from the solo space of the leaders. The rhythm section is a completely different cast of characters as well. Fronted by the relaxed but supportive ivories of Perillo, they offer up lush accompaniment and even solo at regular intervals. As on past entries, the band places emphasis on standards shaken out of the bebop and show tune songbooks, but this time the choices are largely more conservative in cast. Even so, the arrangements prove themselves ripe and ready for vigorous and lengthy improvisation. The players waste no time in getting down to business on a breezy rundown of Clifford Brown’s “The Blues Walk.” Strolling through the changes all of the players sound as if they’re holding back a bit, minting a solid, if slightly pedestrian, facsimile of the hard bop classic instead of a real corker.
“You and the Night and the Music” ups the ante, still favoring a relaxed tempo, but fueled by more focused statements from the horns, particularly McKee who affects a lusciously smooth sound with his well-lubricated slide. Vonski follows, articulating freely in his signature pinched style and peppering his phrases with fluttering squeals. In his reliable hands the melody is never manhandled; instead it's polished to a fine sheen under his fluttering ministrations. Goode’s light-toned brass sails in from the wings shortly after Vonski’s statement, singing a series of sweet variations book ended by a stray Monk quote. The Monkish flavors carry directly into “Just You Just Me,” where the sextet shows ingenious resolve by transposing the melody of “Evidence” onto the tune’s chordal chassis for a surprisingly near seamless fit. Swinging solos ensue from Perrillo and the horns, backed by a strong walking line from Miller and Rummage’s frothing cymbal sprays.
Ratcheting up the pace on Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia,” the band digs into the theme with brazen bravado. Vonski steps up first, bracketed by boisterous ensemble riffing and spills out an improvisation brimming with slippery streams of notes. McKee’s solo stands as a near antithesis, cottony soft and contrasting beautifully with the ruggedness of the rhythm section. Rummage whips up controlled racket with his sticks, matching Miller’s fast plucking vamps. Goode and Perrillo each take a clutch of choruses and a series of high-energy drum breaks takes the track out. The Latin overtones segue directly into “Star Eyes” where Rummage carves out a samba beat and Miller’s lines stretch with rubbery elasticity achieved through amplification. Each of the horns and Perrillo trace their individual and inventive trajectories through the theme and the final product is another ovation-garnering audience pleaser. Two thoughtfully rendered, if somewhat conservative, ballads take the program out and in a fine romantic mood and deliver plenty more room for the horns to bask in the stage lights.
Stacked against the previous two volumes in the series, this band sounds somewhat cluttered and the music as a whole is a notch lower in cohesiveness. But these are truly minor complaints and the chance to hear Vonski and the still-unsung Goode blow in front of appreciative crowd makes the reasons behind this release obvious. Perhaps best of all, future volumes are sure to follow, thanks to the substantial tape cache of performances in Goode’s possession.
Steeplechase on the web: http://www.steeplechase.dk
Track Listing: The Blues Walk/ You and the Night and the Music/ Just You Just Me/ A Night In
Tunisia/ Star Eyes/ Blue Moon/ What Is This Thing Called Love.
Personnel: Brad Goode- trumpet; Von Freeman- tenor saxophone; Paul McKee- trombone;
Ron Perrillo- piano; Stewart Miller- bass; Bob Rummage- drums. Recorded:
January & February 1993, Chicago, IL.