As it must be in just about any creative endeavor, it’s from the ranks of today’s youth that tomorrow’s musical leaders will emerge. In light of the deaths of so many critical jazz artists in recent years, this fact takes on a sense of paramount importance. In other words, budding talent must be cultivated in order to assure the survival of this art form. Fortunately, many record labels today have seen fit to giving a platform to talent on the rise. In the spirit of Out of the Blue, a youthful ensemble put together by Blue Note back in the mid-‘80s, the Sharp Nine label has initiated a showcase for young artists on the first of what will hopefully by a burgeoning series of releases.
The collective talents assembled as the Sharp Nine class of 2001 include names that may not be familiar at this point but hold great promise for future growth. The rhythm section is particularly strong, with pianist Jeb Patton a fleet-fingered improviser in the best tradition of Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner. And while drummer E.J. Strickland may be a bit on the busy side at times, he keeps the energy at a level that spurs on the soloists, in addition to locking in tight with bassist Brandon Owens.
As for the front line, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt is already making a name for himself with a tart and expressive approach that mixes vocal qualities from the New Orleans tradition with a modern bent. Marcus Strickland’s tenor is solid, but his soprano work is much more substantial, as can be heard on “All Is Not Lost.” Last but not least, alto saxophonist Julius Tolentino may be the least remarkable of the crew, but the potential is there and his original composition “Dedicated to Dad” proves to be a delightfully melodic gem that’s also one of the best tunes on the disc.
Balanced among band originals and some juicy standards (Dexter Gordon’s “I Want More,” Jimmy Heath’s “The Quota,” and Jackie McLean’s “Bird Lives”), the program is varied and flows logically much in the manner of a well-planned club set. Now firmly rooted in our new century, records like On the Loose provide tangible evidence that the jazz tradition continues to be valued among today’s musicians in a manner that will hopefully insure its prosperity.
Track Listing: I Want More, Dedicated to Dad, Billy, For Fewer Words, Reassurance, The Quota, All Is Not Lost, Bird Lives
Personnel: Jeremy Pelt(trumpet), Marcus Strickland (tenor/soprano saxophones), Julius Tolentino (alto saxophone), Jeb Patton (piano), Brandon Owens (bass), E.J. Strickland (drums)