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Intensive Act, recorded in 1995–96, showcases the prominent Belgian drummer Félix Simtaine in a variety of settings from solo (“Leedy Babylass”) to trio, quartet, quintet and full–fledged orchestra (one of Belgium’s finest, the ACT Big Band). The quartet leads off with “All God’s Children,” “My Old Flame” and Bud Powell’s “Gettin’ There,” followed by the trio (“Happy Talking”), “Babylass,” and the quintet (“Olivia’s Arrival,” “Tonk”). The ACT Big Band completes the program with four numbers — “Walkin’ Tip Toe,” “Song for Lucy,” “Out of the Silence” and “Atonal.” The quartet and trio are basically the same, with tenor saxophonist André Donni stepping aside for the smaller group’s performance (although he did write “Happy Talking”). On the quintet numbers, Simtaine, pianist Ron van Rossum and bassist Nicolas Thyss are joined by two baritone saxophonists, Bo van der Werf and an American guest, Gary Smulyan. While Simtaine is excellent kicking the quartet, as he is in every context, the Joe Henderson/Hank Mobley–influenced Donni almost steals the show with his impassioned blowing on those tracks (while everyone else weighs in with absorbing solos on “Gettin’ There”). Simtaine tosses a little of everything into the pot on “Babylass,” from bells, whistles, horns, gongs and other sound effects to every element of his multi–faceted drum kit. It’s effective, and the nearly 10–minute drum clinic passes by fairly rapidly and painlessly. Smulyan, who plays up to his world–class reputation, wrote “Olivia’s Arrival,” while Ellington/Strayhorn collaborated on the rapid–fire “Tonk.” The ACT Big Band makes a grand entrance (supported by Simtaine’s tasteful brushwork) with trumpeter Bert Joris’ “Walkin Tiptoe,” on which he and pianist Michel Herr solo. Joris also composed “Atonal,” which, by the way, isn’t, while Herr wrote the lustrous “Song for Lucy” (featuring alto saxophonist Peter Vandendriessche) and the genial “Out of the Silence” (whose soloists are Joris, tenor Erwin Vann, alto Frank Vaganée and another Vandendriessche, baritone Johan). Although Simtaine is the headliner, he’s by no means the whole show, and the disc embodies nearly 70 minutes of high–quality, straight–ahead Jazz that merits one’s serious consideration regardless of who is keeping time.
Track listing: All God’s Children Got Rhythm; My Old Flame; Gettin’ There; Happy Talking; Leedy Babylass; Olivia’s Arrival; Tonk; Walkin’ Tip Toe; Song for Lucy; Out of the Silence; Atonal (69:50).
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.