Other than the ability to record musicians like drummers Jimmy Cobb and the less well-known Michael Carvin, what status could allow this young label led by a lion (Branford Marsalis) to be said to honor either of these men? Actually the company is honoring itself, and doing some justice to the veteran Carvin, whose sometime partner Jackie McLean has alas just died. Those two are credited with producing one masterpiece (Antiquity, Steeplechase 1974), and Carvin himself is acknowledged with a lot of musical and especially jazz associations, coaching (a term he prefers to "teaching") and playing; and with an enormous amount of work getting this programme with this band right. Getting rightnot just trying to!
Like Cobb on the partner CD, Carvin performs within a quartet comprised of people he's been working with of late, notably Marcus Strickland on tenor saxophone. On the track on which "Prisoner of Love segues into "Body and Soul, Branford Marsalis himself sits in, first alternating solos, then part-choruses with Strickland. Strickland is not intimidated, and his own ballad take on "Forest Flower, with sometimes an almost baritone sound on tenor, is a terrific performance. It also demonstrates why Carvin has of late has featured Carlton Holmes on piano. His solo following Strickland's extended opening improvisation is all you could hope for.
"In Walked Bud has already demonstrated the bassist Dezron Douglas's ability to combine with Carvin in bass and drums accompaniment of a sort featured in Monk quartet performances, with the piano dropping out. The quartet does get very directly to work at the start of that Monk number.
Other highlights include the rhythm section work and the drummer's celebration on "A Night in Tunisia ; and, after a great intro from Douglas's bass, a ballad performance of "You Go to My Head that's remarkable for sustaining tension over almost twelve minutes. Sonny Rollins might be given credit for pioneering the sort of paraphrase of an initial melody which adds gold to "Hello, Young Lovers (a Rollins-like choice of song, whether or not Rollins himself ever delivered improvisations on it!), but this specific example signals the high class of this quartet and its whole set. Their merits might not be loudly blatant upon first listen, but discovering them justifies many more.
I'll Remember April; The Lamp Is Low; Prisoner of Love/Body and Soul; In Walked Bud; Forest
Flower; A Night in Tunisia; You Go to My Head; Hello, Young Lovers.
Michael Carvin: drums; Carlton Holmes: piano; Marcus Strickland: tenor saxophone; Dezron
Douglass: bass; Branford Marsalis: tenor saxophone (3).