While West Coast drummer David Whitman
's Ode to Joe
[Henderson] is a rather brief one at less than thirty-three minutes, it is otherwise admirable for what is enclosed within its concise parameters. Whitman leads a well-schooled septet whose makeup is freshened by rotating tenor saxophonists Bob Sheppard
and Rob Lockart
and guitarists Bruce Forman
and Chris Montgomery
Whitman and trumpeter Andrew Neesley
share composer credits, and Neesley handles the arrangements, awakening warm memories of the Golden Age of Blue Note, Prestige and Verve Records well over half a century ago, a time in which Joe Henderson
and other jazz giants redefined the genre and enriched its vocabulary. Hard-edged swing takes center stage on every number save the last, "With Love," a handsome ballad by Whitman and the only tune on which he replaces his sticks with brushes, underlining earnest solos by Sheppard, Montgomery and pianist Geoffrey Keezer
Elsewhere, as noted, the ensemble sprints and shouts, starting with the lively and tasteful "Time Out" (with solos to match by Forman, Sheppard and Keezer). "Bop This," another bow to jazz's storied heyday, swings smartly along behind ardent solos by Keezer, Forman, Lockart, Neesley (muted) and trombonist Ryan Dragon
. Whitman solos here, as elsewhere, but none of his solos is noted. "Home," in this case, simply has to be New Orleans, as no groove or temper, no matter how well-meant, can measure up to that of the Crescent City. As an aside, the melody on "Home" has more than a passing resemblance to the nursery rhyme "Three Blind Mice." Solos are by Dragon, Neesley and Keezer.
Sheppard is showcased on "Ode to Joe," yet another fiery flag-waver, as is Neesley's stalwart "Nees Plees," a fast-paced salute to saxophonist Benny Golson
whose nimble solos are delivered by Neesley, Dragon and Keezer. Ode to Joe
(which, by the way, is dedicated to the memory of another legendary drummer, the late Joe Morello
) is a laudable session, one whose respectable grade would be higher were there more music to appraise.
Time Out; Bop This; Home; Ode to Joe; Ness Please; With Love.
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