The harsh sterility that can sometimes characterize post bop horn-based quintets is noticeably lacking on Iron Man. Jim Rotondi's trumpet and flugelhorn are deliciously warm, and saxman Jimmy Greene's tenor fits right into the overall mood. A member of the hard bop ensemble One for All, Rotondi eschews the piano here in favor of seasoned vibraphonist Steve Nelson and wisely taps drummer Bill Stewart, along with bassist Doug Weiss, to solidify a stylish sound.
The title cut is a forum for Rotondi, Greene and Nelson to demonstrate their soloing prowess on the backs of a pumping, full-speed rhythm. Nelson, as the only chordal instrument, is a mellow addition to the rhythm section, and he steers the proceedings into a melodious groove on his homage to Rotondi's wife, "Chouchou. In tribute to pianist James Williams, his "For My Nephews continues in this spirit, benefitting from Nelson's deft solo and Rotondi's lightly caressing horn.
The Gershwin standard "Embraceable You opens delicately with vibes and brushes that set just the right stage for the honey that flows from Rotondi's horn. Stewart and Nelson interact in an intricate rhythmic environment that allows trumpet and tenor to blow some bop on the trumpeter's "Digit, while "Repetition, a tribute to Bird, adds an entrancing bossa respite to the program.
The multiple layers of the somewhat off-center personality that is "Mr. Craignos are explored by each musician, with Greene's soprano sax delving deepest into his mind, before things end on a more natural note with Greene's bluesy sendoff, "Power. With this creatively assembled band, Rotondi has shown that his Iron Man has a warm heart and a pure soul.
Iron Man; Chouchou; For My Nephews; Embraceable You; Digit; Repetition; Mr. Craignos; Power.
Jim Rotondi: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jimmy Greene: tenor and soprano sax; Steve Nelson:
vibraphone; Doug Weiss: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.
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