Trombonist David Gibson makes an auspicious impression on Maya, his handsome tone and superior technique summoning thoughts of the late great J.J. Johnson and a couple of Gibson’s primary influences, Curtis Fuller and Slide Hampton. As one expects from Nagel Heyer, the music is solidly in the mainstream with half a dozen well–framed compositions by Gibson complementing one (“New Level”) by trumpeter John Sneider and the standards “What’s New” and “Speak Low” (the last taken at an agreeably rapid tempo). Among Gibson’s charts I like the boppish “Snide Remarks” and “Solid State” best, but none of the others is less than engaging. The sidemen, except for tenor Wayne Escoffery, were new to me but they’re a well–knit group who zig and zag eagerly through and around the changes without once dropping the ball. Pianist Jeremy Manasia knows how to turn a phrase to his advantage, while Sneider and Escoffery reinforce Gibson well, delivering a number of persuasive statements that help enliven the proceedings. Even though drummer Tony Leone is a tad splashy at times, he and bassists Peter Hartman or Dwayne Burno are on the whole quite supple and at ease in their back–up role. Gibson has everyone on board for most of the ride, reserving only Johnny Burke / Bobby Haggart’s poignant “What’s New” for himself (and the rhythm section). Gibson says he chose the ballad after listening to J.J. Johnson, with other tunes inspired by friends and loved ones — “Big John” for John Farnsworth, “Solid State” for bassist Bob Stata, “Maya” for six–year–old daughter Maya Ann Gibson, “Tré” for Vincent Ruggiero III, “Snide Remarks” for trumpeter and longtime friend Sneider. The closer, “Indomitable,” recorded in New York City on September 9, 2001, is dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11 and their loved ones. A colorful fifty minutes–plus of well–upholstered small–group Jazz.
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