Mark Masters on Alec Wilder

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Mark Masters
One of the finest jazz albums of the year is a collaboration between trumpter-arranger Mark Masters and baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan. The album is Night Talk: The Alec Wilder Songbook (Capri). If you're unfamiliar with Masters, now's a good time to explore. His arranging skills are magnificent, and he has a long history of turning out exceptional work. He also is president of the American Jazz Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to the enrichment and enhancement of the appreciation of jazz music.

Recorded in December 2018 at Tritone Recording in Glendale, Ca., Night Talk features a team of nine insrumental tigers: Gary Smulyan (bs and featured soloist throughout), Bob Summers (tp), Dave Woodley (tb), Don Shelton (as, alto flt), Jerry Pinter (ts, ss), Ed Czach (p), Putter Smith (b) and Kendall Kay (d). These are not easy arrangements, yet the nonet handles them with polish and punch.

The Wilder songs are You're Free, Don't Deny, Ellen, Moon and Sand, Baggage Room Blues, I Like It Here, Night Talk, Lovers and Losers and I'll Be Around. All arrangements are by Masters, who has an incredible touch and wonderful sense of coloration. Gary on baritone is sensational. His lines are assertive and flawless. It's as if he's playing a chain saw.

Gary and Masters are a natural fit. They've worked together for years on Masters's albums The Clifford Brown Project (2002), Porgy & Bess Redefined (2003), Grachan Moncur III's Exploration (2004), Masters's Wish Me Well: Reflections on Gary McFarland (2005), Gary's High Noon: The Jazz Soul of Frankie Laine (2008), Masters's Ellington Saxophone Encounters (2012) and Masters's Everything You Did (2013), a tribute to Steely Dan. I love all of these albums, but Masters's latest one with Gary is superb.

JazzWax clips: Here's You're Free...



Here's the title track...



And here's Lovers and Losers...



Bonus1: Here's Steely Dan's Black Cow from Mark Masters's Everything You Did...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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