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The "Rising Star" status usually goes to those of the youthful fresh faces, possessed of recent degrees from one of the major music schools. But, 58 year-old pianist Eric Vaughn, now San Francisco-based now after a dozen years in Seattle, could easily take that prize. With his major distribution debut, Minor Relocation, he could be called a newly discovered star. He's mostly unnoticed in the Bud Powell/Thelonious Monk constellation, but he's one star that shines brightly.
Powell and Monk, the iconoclastic bebop pioneers, influence Vaughn's craggy, quirky pianism on the ebullient title tune and "Funny Waltz," while a channeling of pianist McCoy Tyner muscularity surfaces on the Great American Songbook gem, "Alone Together." Here, the disc's core trio's is joined by saxophonist Bob Kenmotsu for a rollicking take on the familiar tune.
An exuberant and joyful player, Vaughn also proves to be a first-rate songsmith. He penned six of the eleven tunes including the beautiful "Joyce," a lilting bossa ballad, the free-swinging "Jackpot Blues," and the explosive "Tune for Trane."
Mixing of lineups on a disc can sometimes be a mistake. Vaughn turns it into an asset, offering three trio workouts with three different drummers and bassists. Kenmotsu also sits in on five tunes, and sounds particularly fine on the standards "Stella By Starlight " and "On Green Dolphin Street." Bernie Williams contributes some zingy flute work on the Vaugh-penned "Eric's Samba."
Expertly put together, Minor Relocation's originals and well-chosen standards are sequenced nicely, and played with an obvious joy that marries the willingness to take risks and just "go for it." Eric Vaughn could be classified as one of the year's top discoveries.
Track Listing: Minor Relocation; Funny Waltz; Alone Together; Eric's Samba; Joyce; Jackpot Blues; On Green Dolphin Street; Tune for Trane; Stella By Starlight; On Green Dolphin Street--Take 2; Stella By Starlight--Take 2.
Personnel: Eric Vaughn: piano; Bob Kenmotsu: tenor saxophone (3, 7, 9, 10, 11); Mark Bullis: bass (2, 4, 5); Nate Omdal: bass (1, 6, 8); John Witala: bass (3, 7, 9, 10, 11); Kent Brison: drums (3, 7, 9, 10, 11); Jamiel Nance: drums (2, 4, 5); Nicholas Quitevis: drums (1, 6, 8); Bernie
Williams: flute (4).
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.