Even as experience is often the best teacher, so it is that the teacher often has the most useful experience. Bob Washut, who has been a teacher for roughly four decades, brings that experience and more to bear on Journey to Knowhere, preparing an ambrosial banquet for his twelve-member Dodectet whose main course consists of seven of Washut's engaging compositions.
The inspiration behind the Journey, Washut writes, is the only song on the album that he didn't write, Kenny Wheeler's well-grooved "Smatter" (which Washut arranged especially for the ensemble, as he did every other number). Elsewhere, there's a traditional twelve-bar blues ("Bluezone"), a jazz waltz / showcase for trombonist Paul McKee ("3 for McKee"), bows to pianists Ahmad Jamal ("Nod to Ahmad") and Brad Mehldau ("Meltdown"), a buoyant salute to Bob Brookmeyer's later work ("Thick Plot"), an Afro-Cuban romp, "Malecon," inspired by its well-known namesake in Havana, and last but not least, the tasteful "Nora Rae," spotlighting tenor saxophonist Peter Sommer and trumpeter Greg Gisbert.
As every member of the Dodectet is not only an outstanding section player but an accomplished soloist as well, Washut assigns to each of them some space in which to ad lib. Besides his lyrical feature, McKee solos with trumpeter Bobby Shew and pianist Dana Landry on the "Poinciana"-inflected "Nod to Ahmad." Shew is out front again (with tenors Sommer and John Gunther) on "Smatter" and with Gunther on "Malecon," while Gisbert, Sommer and Landry turn up the heat on "Melt Down." Chris Merz solos smartly on alto (with trumpeter Peter Olstad and drummer Jim White) on "Bluezone," and on soprano (with White and baritone Wil Swindler on "Thick Plot." Erik Applegate's electric bass is heard on "Malecon."
Proficient as they are, it is Washut's superlative compositions and charts that make this a memorable Journey, to Knowhere or anywhere else.
Melt Down; Bluezone; 3 for McKee; Smatter; Nora Rae; Thick Plot; A Nod to Ahmad; Malecon.
Bob Washut: composer, arranger, conductor; Greg Gisbert: trumpet, flugelhorn; Bobby Shew: trumpet; Peter Olstad: trumpet; Chris Merz: alto, soprano sax, flute, clarinet; John Gunther: tenor sax, clarinet; Peter Sommer: tenor sax, clarinet; Wil Swindler: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Paul McKee: trombone; Mike Conrad: trombone; Brett Andrews: cello (2); Dana Landry: piano; Erik Applegate: acoustic, electric bass; Jim White: drums.