It's a sign of the economic times (and a steadily shrinking audience) that more and more jazz CDs are being released these days in the near-equivalent of a "plain brown wrapper." That's certainly true of Octet Vol. 2,
the second recording by Canada's Dave Young
/ Terry Promane
ensemble. That does not mean, however, that the music enclosed therein is any less polished or pleasing than that produced by groups with far deeper pockets. Most of those in the octet (including trombonist Promane) are alumni of the late Rob McConnell
's peerless Boss Brass. In Canada (and most other places), no more need be said about their awareness or expertise.
Although bassist Young never sat in with the Boss Brass, he has performed with an inclusive roster of notable musicians in Canada and other climes, from Oscar Peterson
, Clark Terry
and Sweets Edison to Zoot Sims
, Oliver Nelson
, Kenny Burrell
, Cedar Walton
, Hank Jones
, Nat Adderley
, Gary Burton
, Barney Kessel
, James Moody
and others too numerous to mention. Young's teammates in the ensemble come equipped with comparable resumes, leading one to expect that their collaboration could be quite impressive.
While that presumption is by no means ill-advised, the listener may have to hang in there for a few moments before the album's more salient rewards come to the fore. This is, mind you, only one listener's unlearned observation, but it does seem from this vantage point that Young's low-key arrangement of the opener, Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," performed as a gentle waltz, misses the mark, while Charles Mingus
' composition, "Duke Ellington
's Sounds of Love," which follows, is melodic but more or less bland, in spite of an appetizing solo by alto saxophonist Vern Dorge
The ensemble really finds its groove on Promane's exhilarating arrangement of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and kicks some serious butt the rest of the way. Tenor saxophonist Mike Murley
, another BB veteran, is showcased on a sumptuous version of "Detour Ahead," Dorge, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte
and pianist Dave Restivo
on a pleasantly amped-down reading of Dizzy Gillespie
's frenetic "Bebop." The second half of the program opens with Michel Legrand
's lovely ballad "You Must Believe in Spring" (on which Restivo and Young brighten the solo space) and continues on with Murley's galvanic original, "Can't You See," Alec Wilder's mystical "Moon and Sand," Duke Pearson
's well-traveled "Jeannine" and Cedar Walton
's sauntering "Hindsight."
Promane is superb on "Moon and Sand," as he is (with Murley) on "Can't You See." And speaking of soloists, unless Dorge also plays baritone sax, he is credited with Perry White
's robust outing on "Jeannine," while drummer Terry Clarke
's strong statements on "Anything But Love" and "Jeannine" aren't acknowledged. Be that as it may, every soloist, named or not, is razor-sharp and well worth hearing. The same applies to the group as a whole, and after a relatively unassuming start Octet Vol. 2
promptly rights the ship and maps out one of the year's more persuasive and engaging pocket-band performances.
Oh, What a Beautiful Morning; Duke Ellington’s Sounds of Love; Detour Ahead; Bebop; You Must Believe in Spring; Can’t You See; Moon and Sand; Jeannine; Hindsight.
Dave Young: co-leader, bass, arranger; Terry Promane: co-leader, trombone, arranger; Kevin Turcotte: trumpet, flugelhorn; Vern Dorge: alto sax; Mike Murley: tenor sax; Perry White: baritone sax; Dave Restivo: piano; Terry Clarke: drums.