Anyone who appreciates the thunderous sound of an assertive baritone sax should love New Beginnings, an emphatic quartet date that shines a light on Jason Marshall's muscular horn and keeps it there from start to finish.
While his teammates (Marc Cary, piano; Gerald Cannon, bass; Willie Jones III, drums) converse eloquently on every one of the album's eight numbers, Marshall affixes a decisive exclamation mark on every sentence. He does so with exceptional technique and a seemingly endless store of intuitive phrases. For comparison's sake, think Nick Brignola, Cecil Payne or Pepper Adams but with somewhat more weight. Even when Marshall visits the upper register, he never loses control or overpasses his destination.
As Marshall seems most comfortable at medium-to-up-tempo, there is only one number that leans close to balladry: Quincy Jones' soulful "Fallen Feathers," based on Charlie Parker's "Parker's Mood." All other numbers are sunny and swinging, from Joe Henderson's "Recorda Me" to the nimble finale, "I'll Never Stop Loving You" (which is usually slow-walked as an earnest avowal of endearment). In between are animated versions of Rodgers and Hart's "I Could Write a Book," Sonny Rollins' "Airegin," Luis Bonfa's "Black Orpheus," Charles Mingus' "Peggy's Blue Skylight" and a spunky original by Marshall, "Mrs. Garvey, Mrs. Garvey!!"
Cary, Cannon and Jones are always in step and supportive, while Cary designs several refreshing solos of his own and Cannon and Jones are given more than one chance to sparkle. Even so, it is Marshall's formidable baritone that holds the reins and lends the session the lion's share of its identity and import. That is not meant to impugn the rhythm section, merely to point out that when it comes to tempting the ear, it's hard to challenge a baritone saxespecially one as fluent and powerful as Jason Marshall's. New Beginnings rests for the most part on his shoulders, and he carries the weight with aptitude and assurance.
Recordame; I Could Write a Book; Airegin; Black Orpheus; Peggy’s Blue Skylight; Ms. Garvey, Ms. Garvey!!; Fallen Feathers; I’ll Never Stop Loving You.
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