Fred Randolph's Learning Curve is heavy on tribute songs. The bassist/composer pays homage to Michael Brecker, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, and pianist Art Hirahara, who joins him on the disc. But while Randolph does manage to suggest a Brecker Brothers tune, an aggressive yet catchy Mingus number and a journey into Trane's spiritual side, the real joys of this album have little to do with tributes.
The collaborative work of trumpeter Don Beck and tenor saxophonist Rob Roth is at the heart of the disc's success. Blending beautifully when playing together and delivering effortless, intriguing solos on their own, Beck and Roth quietly dominate Learning Curve. One of the album's highlights is "Churchy Tune," which brings Beck and Roth's connection to the fore and also features a Hammond organ solo by Michael Bluestein that manages to both embrace and expand the traditional sound of the organ in the bluesy church tradition.
Randolph's own skills are best demonstrated on "Secret Garden," the only track on which he plays fretless bass. His funky vibe is brought to the forefront of this upbeat number and works well with the shiny tone of soprano saxophonist Mike Zilber. Beck and Roth sit this one out, which changes the dynamic, but "Secret Garden" is still a standout tune.
The disc closes with "Pua Lilia," a traditional Hawaiian song performed as a duet by Randolph and Hirahara. It seems an odd ending to a disc of originals performed by a larger ensemble, but the lyrical piece gives Randolph another opportunity to shine. The piece brings Learning Curve to a satisfying end.
Track Listing: 1. I Wonder Why (for Michael Brecker)
2. Windward Side
3. Churchy Tune
4. Learning Curve
5. The Longest Time
6. Secret Garden
7. A's Vamp (for Art Hirahara)
8. In Honor of (for Charles Mingus)
9. Homage to Trane (for John Coltrane)
10. Nature of the Beast
11. Pua Lilia (Traditional Hawaiian)
Personnel: Fred Randolph: acoustic fretless bass, acoustic bass;
Art Hirahara: acoustic piano;
Tim Bulkley: drums, rain stick;
Rob Roth: tenor sax;
Don Beck: trumpet;
Mike Zilber: soprano sax;
Michael Bluestein: Hammond organ;
Bryan Bowman: tabla;
Michaelle Goerlitz: percussion
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 (at age 10) when I was in a shopping arcade in Southport, England with my parents. I fell in love with the music playing over the PA system; Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 (at age 10) when I was in a shopping arcade in Southport, England with my parents. I fell in love with the music playing over the PA system; Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. After going through Rock 'n Roll, the Beatles and Heavy Metal/Hard Rock phases over the next eight or so years, I finally bought my first jazz album; We're All Together Again for the First Time by Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan. I was hooked on jazz, and still am 40+ years later.
I moved from England to the USA in 2002, and founded the Brookfield Jazz Society in 2005.
I became editor of the quarterly IAJRC Journalin 2012. The magazine goes to the worldwide membership of the IAJRC (International Association of Jazz Record Collectors) and many major libraries and educational establishments around the world.
As well as being the editor of the IAJRC Journal, I write about jazz and review CDs, vinyl, DVDs and books on jazz.
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