Dipping into this fine recording is, to mix metaphors a bit, like opening a time capsule. That capsule is called One For All (A&M, 1990), perhaps the final studio recording of Art Blakey with The Jazz Messengers. It was not a perfect outing, but it was a memorable one. The lines got into the head and stayed there, just waiting for a chance to be reawakened. Well, now is the time with Ode to Joe. A convenient link between the two recordings is pianist Geoffrey Keezer, who appears on both, a musical bookend of a sort. That the genre and style is familiar does not make the recording any less appealing, although in CD form, the whole effort occupies barely more than a half hour. Consider this an appetizer, and a tasty one.
The compositions and arrangements are by David Whitman and Andrew Neesley. Whitman is a Southern California-based drummer associated with San Diego State University and hardly a newcomer to the scene. The rest of the band swings hard and tunefully, in the tradition, as it were, because most of the musicians have plenty of experience working with major figures who are the bop tradition. There is an appealing mix of of tunes here, ranging from a straight New Orleans second line "Home" to Rhythm Changes to "Ode to Joe," dedicated to Joe Henderson, which features tenor sax Bob Sheppard. Andrew Neesly is a trumpet player in the Freddie Hubbard vein and a pleasure to hear. Bruce Forman also makes an appearance on guitar, someone whose career goes back at least to the 1980s and is always worth hearing.
That the recording will stir pleasant memories in listeners of a certain age is not say that it is an exercise in mere nostalgia or some kind of tear-jerker. The music is up-to-date and the band cooks. Who, as the song said, could ask for anything more?
Time Out; Bop This; Home; Ode to Joe; Ness Please; With Love.
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