A second outing for drummer and composer Michael Lauren and his All Stars continues and strengthens their fresh path through intelligent modernism. Their brightly-lit road intersects again and again with a variety of classic jazz genres. This energetic sixteen-track outing is presented in a unique style. Interspersed between the songs are six short drum duets with trumpet, piano, contrabass, saxophone, guitar, and vibraphone. These offerings rapidly push into richer jazz complexities that serve to buffer and segue into the more accessible four to five-minute tunes. As much as the record is buoyed by the septet's integrity as an ensemble, and with the individual fronts taking the curves at high speeds and delicately maneuvering the crossings, it is Lauren's strong leadership that is felt throughout. Never overpowering, Lauren's nuanced ability to comfortably and skillfully execute many jazz interpretations provides a presence that allows his bandmates to stretch, explore, and improvise freely.
A bluesy take on Oliver Nelson's "More Soul" is enhanced by guitarist Nuno Ferreira's Wes Montgomery-esque leanings. The Ferreira penned "One More for The Road" is a modern arrangement that features solos by Ferreira and vibraphonist Jeffery Davis. Davis's composition, the straight forward "The Right Wrong Topic" is followed by Lauren's Afro-Cuban percussive driven "Lisboa Boogaloo," in which trumpeter Hugo Alves channels his inner Arturo Sandoval. "You Want It You Got It" is Alves's contribution; this funk-driven and groove-oriented number provides an opportunity for contrabassist Carlos Barretto to strut his stuff. Pianist Diogo Vida's "Wapita" is perhaps the band's finest triumph as an ensemble. Tenor saxophonist Jose Menezes pays homage to the airy and upbeat movie soundtracks from the 1960's with his "Virgin in Times Square." Engaging solos by Menezes and Vida also bring bounce to this fun number. All the soloists take a pleasant run through the swinging beat of "2-4" written by Carlos Azevedo. Old School/Fresh Jazz comes to a surprising and blissful conclusion with vocalist Rui Veloso delivering a sweet, soulful, and heartfelt rendition of "Song of Bernadette."
Track Listing: A Fresh Jazz Intro; More Soul; One More For The Road; A Fresh Jazz Drum & Saxophone Duet; The Right Wrong Topic; A Fresh Jazz Drum & Guitar Duet; Lisboa Boogaloo; A Fresh Jazz Drum & Contrabass Duet; You Want It You Got It; A Fresh Jazz Drum & Vibraphone Duet; Wapita; A Fresh Jazz Drum & Piano Duet; Virgin In Times Square; A Fresh Jazz Drum & Trumpet Duet; 2-4; Song of Bernadette.
Personnel: Michael Lauren: drums & percussion; Carlos Barretto: contrabass; Diogo Vida: piano & Fender Rhodes; Hugo Alves: trumpet & flugelhorn; Jeffery Davis: vibraphone; Jose Menezes: tenor saxophone; Nuno Ferreira: guitar
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