Bassist Gregg August's pedigree is hard bop, and his trademark compositions have heads that examine every harmonic and melodic possibility and are almost stories unto themselves. His sextet recently played a lively set at New York's Fat Cat, and a few of the tunes they performed are featured on August's new album, the somewhat self-titled Late August.
"Sweet Maladie opens with a hard bop head, then shifts into a robust Latin groove. Donny McCaslin takes a strong solo on tenor, as does the leader on plucked bass. Guest stars Wilson "Chembo Corniel (shekere) and the peerless Ray Barretto (congas) supply the percussive drive. The arrangement of "Four Two K takes a bit long to get to the point, but McCaslin's soul-searching, crisp tenor solo and John Bailey soaring trumpet make it worth the wait. On "M's Blues, pianist Alon Yavnai plays with a clarity and melodic style that owes a lot to McCoy Tyner. Alto sax man Myron Walden stole the show at Fat Cat with an extended a capella passage where he squeezed the guts out of each note. On this tune he's not nearly as strident, but he still plays with inventiveness and muscularity.
On "Melody in Black and Grey, another Latin-influenced tune with a Trane-ish tension in the head, Walden and Yavnai have a nice dialogue, then McCaslin and Bailey pick up the conversation. August's amplified yet dolorous solo arco on the luminous "Eulogy feels as though it belongs in a medieval church. The leader reduces the group from a sextet to a quartet for "Deceptions, featuring John Hart on guitar, Quincy Davis on drums, and the fabulous Frank Wess on tenor sax. Wess' solo is playful and joyous, and Hart displays blistering chops on his axe. The core group returns to end this rock-solid disc with "Work In Progress, a tune in an Ellington-meets-Blakey vein.
Sweet Maladie; Four Two K; M's Blues; Treatments in Darknesds; Los Dos Cotos; Melody in
Black and Grey; Eulogy; Deceptions; Work in Progress.
Gregg August: bass; John Bailey: trumpet; Myron Walden: alto saxophone; Donny McCaslin:
tenor saxophone; Frank Wess: tenor saxophone; Alon Yavnai: piano; John Hart: guitar; Eric
McPhearson: drums; Ray Barretto, Wilson Corneil: congas.
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