Natural Gifts, from Pittsburgh-based drummer/producer Reid Hoyson, offers eleven selections that deliver a very enjoyable jazz experience. The performers all emanate from Pittsburgh and the entire group shines. Like the Three-Rivers City, the session melds fine compositions, soloing and ensemble interplay.
"Bottom Without a Top" launches the session with a Latin-grooved head before it opens up into a swinging section with fire-breathing solos from Jeff Bush, Erik Lawrence and J.D. Chaisson. "Dinner at the Borgia's" is, as one might imagine, a rather surreal soprano sax-served buffet. "Indigo" is a laid-back, smoother statement a la Pat Metheny with composer/guitarist Mark Lucas's and Don DePaolis's fine solos. "Do Nothing 'Til You Hear from Me," picks pocket with a tasty vocal from Lisa Klein-Bliel and a tasty solo from trumpeter James Moore.
Hoyson has been a well-respected mainstay in Pittsburgh's jazz scene for decades, both as a player and producer Richie Cole et al). The guy excels at both activities. He is a classic swinger of a time-keeper. If Irv Cottler was "Mr. Time," Hoyson, reminiscent of say, an Alan Dawson, Hoyson is "Mr. Taste." He is also a most magnanimous leader as he generously lets the spotlight shine on all.
"The Chalice" is a deeply reflective statement, slow and deep, with Eric DeFade's soprano sax doing the offering and Mark Lucas' guitar dreaming. "Natural Gifts" follows the slower, dreamy pace. "Tokens," a laid-back soundscape, features a fine Tony DePaolis bass solo. "The Romance of Death" is an energetic Chick Corea-like burner that ignites all. It's an album highlight. Klein-Bliel and Moore return for an azure-dark take on "You Don't Know What Love Is." She fronts a larger ensemble on a fine rendering of Thelonious Monk's balladic love letter, "Ruby, My Dear," as well.
The recording was done over a period of three years and the personnel changed somewhat across the recording period. Despite this there is fine consistency across the tracks. Natural Gifts may have been a longer-term project. Hopefully, its sequel will be here a lot sooner.
Bottom Without a Top, Dinner at the Borgia's, Indigo, Do Nothing 'Til You Hear from Me, The
Chalice, Natural Gifts, Tokens, Romance of Death, Not What Walt Would Have Wanted, You don't
Know What Love Is, Ruby, My Dear.
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