Kansas City baritone saxophonist and educator Kerry Strayer has put together an excellent straight-ahead jazz outing that serves both as a worthy tribute to the late Gerry Mulligan (unquestionably the most influencial baritone saxophonist in jazz), as well as a good introduction to his own talents. Eight of the nine tunes are Strayer's arrangements of Mulligan tunes, and the opening title track is Strayer's own composition. Strayer ensures the success of the CD by enlisting Mulligan's last rhythm section of Ted Rosenthal (piano), Dean Johnson (bass), and Ron Vincent (drums), and matching them with an impressive front line consisting of the venerable Randy Brecker (trumpet), John Mosca (trombone), and Ted Nash (tenor sax and flute).
There's so much to enjoy about this CD! All of the band members are afforded solo opportunities, and their solos are consistently well constructed and executed. A particular delight is the flute-piano interplay on "Dragonfly." For those who study and/or appreciate good arranging, Strayer offers much to absorb. He uses the four horns in a variety of lead and background configurations and writes excellent voicings. For example, check out the four-horn background figures supporting Johnson's bass solo on "Festive Minor." The ensemble plays cohesively throughout the disc, as evidenced both by the rhythm section's hand-in-glove comping and the horn section's blend during ensemble passages (belying the fact that the horns are session aces, not long-time bandmates). Finally, the disc strikes an appropriate balance between honoring Gerry Mulligan (both via his obvious influence on Kerry Stryker as a baritone saxophonist and through the use of his expert compositions) and making its own statement without merely copying or recreating Mulligan's works. (Palmetto Jazz PM-2040).
Tracks: Jeru Blue; Rio One; Tell Me When; Festive Minor; Dragonfly; Oh, Mr. Sauter? Yes, Mr. Finegan?; Night Lights (The Lonely Night); North Atlantic Run; Idol Gossip. (58:12)
Kerry Strayer (baritone and soprano sax); Randy Brecker (trumpet); John Mosca (trombone); Ted Nash (tenor sax and flute); Ted Rosenthal (piano); Dean Johnson (bass); and Ron Vincent (drums).