A note to this year’s poll–winning Jazz instrumentalists: don’t look over your shoulder; there’s a group of talented young players running behind you who are rapidly gaining ground with every ambitious stride they take. And if you wish to maintain your composure, do whatever you must to avoid listening to On the Loose by the Sharp Nine Class of 2001. It could be harmful to your self–confidence. Nine they’re not (only six) — but sharp they are. These young post–boppers, ages 21–25 when their coming–out album was recorded in June 2000, sound at times like a dynamic new incarnation of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Another group they bring to mind is the topnotch New York cooperative All for One. Many card–carrying musicians in the New York City area have probably heard about these precocious cats already, at least by reputation, and if this recording is any yardstick, it shouldn’t be long before the rest of the Jazz world gets the message too. The sextet includes identical twins Marcus (tenor, soprano sax) and drummer E.J. Strickland (you can tell them apart by the ’dos and by the fact that Marcus carries a saxophone case on his back); alto Julius Tolentino who has studied with master player / educator Jackie McLean at the Hartt School of Music; trumpeter Jeremy Pelt from the Berklee School and, most recently, the MIngus Big Band and Jimmy Heath Quintet; Florida–born bassist Brandon Owens who has gigged with Benny Green and Monty Alexander, among others; and pianist Jeb Patton whose influences include McCoy Tyner, Bud Powell, Ahmad Jamal, Cedar Walton and his mentor at Queens College, the marvelous Sir Roland Hanna. While splendid at any tempo, the group is at its collective best on the trio of flag–wavers — Dexter Gordon’s “I Want More,” Jimmy Heath’s “The Quota,” McLean’s “Bird Lives” — wherein they can show off their monstrous chops and remarkably tight rapport. Completing the program are Reuben Brown’s scampering “Billy” and one congenial composition each by Tolentino (“Dedicated to Dad”), Pelt (“Reassurance”), Patton (“All Is Not Lost”) and Marcus Strickland (“For Fewer Words”). The front–liners are quick and daring, the rhythm section nimble and responsive, although drummer E.J. (like Blakey before him) is sometimes a tad too boisterous and emphatic for our taste. Patton is especially persuasive whether comping or soloing. This is an excellent group of well–schooled musicians who play much older than they are, and Sharp Nine deserves a round of applause for supporting them as they endeavor to make a name for themselves in a crowded and uncommonly demanding profession.
Contact:Sharp Nine Records, 561 Hillcrest Avenue, Westfield, NJ 07090. Phone 908–789–7660; fax 908–654–1863. Web site, www.sharpnine.com; e–mail email@example.com
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)
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.