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PJ Perry: No Hugs

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PJ Perry: No Hugs
The title of Canadian alto saxophone maestro PJ Perry's album does not mean that Perry wants No Hugs, rather that the Covid pandemic that arrived in 2020 meant there would be "no hugs" between Perry and his beloved grandson, Atticus, in the "big brown chair" that served as their hangout until the quarantine was over. On the plus side, it gave Perry and longtime friend and colleague, bassist Neil Swainson, ample time to work together on new material, the result of which is the eight songs that comprise this splendid recording by Perry's impressive quintet.

As Swainson lives in Toronto and Perry in Edmonton, Swainson doesn't perform on the album, ceding his place to the talented Paul Johnston who joins trumpeter Bob Tildesley, pianist Chris Andrew and drummer Dave Laing to round out the ensemble. Ordinarily, a session consisting solely of original compositions might suffer because of it. Happily, that is not the case here, as the Perry/Swainson collaboration has produced a portfolio of engaging tunes that also swing.

As a sideman, Perry spent a number of years with the late Rob McConnell's sadly missed Boss Brass, which speaks for itself. The technique, as one would expect, is flawless, but even more notable is the fact that Perry has his own special color, vocabulary and phrasing, which set him apart from most if not all of his contemporaries. He is at ease in any mood or tempo, as are Tildesley and Andrew, who share most of the solo space. Tildesley plays muted on the go-for-broke opener, "Too Soon Gone," and closing "Gring's Dilemma," open on every number between. And it sounds like he is playing flugelhorn on the album's lone serenade, "No Hugs."

Andrew, who takes his most extended solo on the groovy "So Long," merits applause whenever called upon, while Johnston and Laing leave nothing to be desired in the rhythmic arena. Even so, Perry's distinctive alto and his and Swainson's beguiling themes earn top honors, blending warmly with Tildesley, Johnston and Laing to make No Hugs one of 2022's more persuasive and pleasurable small-group recordings.

Track Listing

Too Soon Gone; Agoraphobia; So Long; March Of The Covidians; No Hugs; The Kestrel; Scaredy Cat; Gring's Dilemma.

Personnel

Album information

Title: No Hugs | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Cellar Music Group


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