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The New Groove.New Directions was the promotional brainchild of Blue Note Records president Bruce Lundvall. Lundvall, in an effort to further promote an already well established collaborative spirit among the Blue Note stablemates, asked alto saxophonist Greg Osby to pull together a group of the younger players signed to the label rooster. The plan was to assemble several notable players, have them work up new performances of the Blue Note Canon. They would then take the show on the road and finally return to the studio and record under the watchful eye of Rudy Van Gelder (many of the songs being originally recorded by Van Gelder 40 years ago). The resulting band, in addition to Osby, was pianist, Jason Moran, Tenor saxophonist Mark Shim, and vibraphonist Stefon Harris. Rounding out the rhythm section was Tarus Mateen on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums.
New Directions is the fruit of this ambitious endeavor. The recording is as well-conceived and promoted as the original concept. The arrangements are novel, especially Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” and Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father”. Other standards include Hank Mobley’s “No Room for Squares”, featuring Stefon Harris in a spirited vibes solo and Nasheet Waits’ shimmering cymbal work. Of all of the players, it is Greg Osby providing the most orderly and well structured solos. Moran and Harris swing academically. Mark Shim plays like a force of nature. The precocious tenorist gushes angular ideas and attacks resulting in an explosion of melody and free lyricism that are like a breath of fresh air. Shim is an unlikely solution of one part Wayne Shorter, two parts Hank Mobley; three parts Sonny Rollins with a drop of David Murray.
New Directions is a more successful effort than was George Wein’s The Jazz Futures (Novus 63158, 1993) that exploited the young lions of the late 1980s. New Directions is more authentic and a fine reading well worth hearing. Any fan of the four principals will be more than satisfied. Otherwise buy this for Mark Shim.
Track Listing: Theme from Blow Up; The Sidewinder; Ping Pong; Beatrice; No Room for Squares; Song for My Father; Tom Thumb;. Commentary on Electrical Switches; Big Bertha; Recorda Me; Song of the Whispering Banshee; False Start;20 Questions. (Total Time: 65:34)