While comparisons aren’t always productive or even accurate, I can’t help remarking that guitarist Steve Brown’s galvanic septet reminds me of another group with whom I fell head–over–heels in love several years ago, that one led by drummer Danny D’Imperio. What they share is a remarkable esprit de corps and a deep–seated commitment to swinging that resonates from within every note. Another common denominator is tenor Ralph LaLama (or Lalama), a mainspring in both ensembles. As for Brown’s other front–liners, alto saxophonist Snidero and trumpeter Persad, they are — and I mean this as a compliment — so comparable in almost every audible respect to D’Imperio’s main men, Andy Fusco and Greg Gisbert, that it’s downright spooky. The rhythm section? Haddad is a well–endowed and tasteful drummer (as is Goodwin on “Update”), while Gilmore and McNeely (like Goodwin) paid their dues with the Phil Woods quintet, which speaks volumes. When he resolves to cruise straight ahead, as he does here, McNeely is one of the most admirable pianists on the scene (a resourceful soloist whose comping is consistently on the money). We must also commend Brown’s strumming, which is exemplary throughout (“Never Let Me Go,” a tribute to the Bill Evans/Jim Hall tradition, is a graceful duet with McNeely). One area in which the groups differ lies in their choice of material. Whereas D’Imperio favors a repertoire of established Jazz and popular standards, Brown — at least on Night Waves — leans toward newer music, presenting half a dozen of his own compositions, originals by Bill Dobbins (“Red’s Blues”) and Todd Coolman (“O.P. Update”), and only one standard, the ballad “Never Let Me Go.” Although I’ve been known in the past to grumble (or even groan) about younger musicians who are under the impression they can also write, there’ll be no whining this time around. On the contrary, everything on Night Waves is so exeedingly well–written that one can easily disregard the exclusion of yet another version of “Love for Sale”
Track listing: After He Left; Red’s Blues; Never Let Me Go; No Lips, No Smile; Ahmadification; Night Waves; O.P. Update; A Piece of Cake; Captain Hook (70:32).
Steve Brown, guitar, congas; Chris Persad, flugelhorn; Jim Snidero, alto sax; Ralph LaLama, tenor sax; Jim McNeely, piano; Steve Gilmore, bass; Jamey Haddad, drums; Bill Goodwin, drums (on