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The Rob McConnell Sextet: Old Friends / New Music

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The Rob McConnell Sextet: Old Friends / New Music
Rob McConnell was a valve trombonist, arranger, composer and leader of the big band called the Boss Brass, which set a new standard for jazz writing through the use of complex passages and close section harmony, and in 1983 won a Grammy. In this digital-only release by Cornerstone Records, McConnell leads a sextet comprised of Guido Basso on trumpet/flugelhorn, Rick Wilkins on tenor sax, Ed Bickert on guitar, Steve Wallace on bass and Terry Clarke on drums in a session that was originally recorded and released on vinyl in 1984 and has long been out of print.

The eight tunes comprising this session feature four jazz classics and four new compositions including two by McConnell. The opening track is Ray Brown's "Ray's Idea" and it is a swinger starting with some tight unison playing from the front line in typical McConnell fashion. Everyone feeds off this frame with standout solos from Basso, Wilkins and McConnell. The rhythm section is percolating in the background with Bickert's comping leading the way. Thelonious Monk's "Pannonica" is done as a relaxed ballad. After the front line states the theme, Bickert delivers a precise and articulate solo and a subsequent intervention by Wilkins is full of his relaxed phrasing.

"Friends Again" is contrafact by Larry Morgan based on the chord changes to the standard "Just Friends." This intense arrangement requires challenging execution and precise playing by the front line before Bickert jumps in with an extended solo filled with his usual blistering and relentless work on the fretboard. There is also some tricky contrapuntal playing between McConnell and Basso. McConnell's "All The Best" has a lovely ballad line. Although he usually kept his solo efforts to a minimum, McConnell's efforts here are a welcome reminder of his smooth talents in this capacity. Guitarist Jim Hall wrote and recorded "Simple Samba" in 1972 and the sextet brings the number joyously alive with their arrangement. Clarke's melodic sense cuts a distictive path over which the horns are effusively engaged with the percolating theme.

The closing track is Rick Wilkins' "Countless Blues," which was written shortly after the death of Count Basie. The bluesy groove is a feature for Bickert, whose fleet-fingered playing cuts a channel through the tune.

Track Listing

Ray's Idea; There's Been Too Many Changes; Pannonica; Greenhouse; Friends Again; All The Best; Simple Samba; Countless Blues.

Personnel

Rob McConnell
trombone
Guido Basso
trumpet
Rick Wilkins
saxophone, tenor
Ed Bickert
guitar
Steve Wallace
bass, acoustic

Album information

Title: Old Friends / New Music | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Cornerstone Records Inc.


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