The Jazz Expressions, long the backing band for singer Jimmy Scott, check in with their third "solo release of straight-ahead instrumental jazz. Ten original compositions, helpfully labelled by style ("ballad," "swing," etc.), hold few surprises but show off the supple group dynamic developed over years of touring together and provide fodder for polished, literate improvisations from each member of the quartet. An exhaustive list of the band's past tour destinations provides food for thoughtthe listener can ponder the significance for jazz as an art form from the fact that these men have been invited to play locales as remote as Azerbaijan, or that they've performed in more cities in Japan than in the United States.
Musical director and bassist Hilliard Greene contributes four compositions and makes his presence felt throughout, beginning with a forceful solo on the opening track "The Great One ("swing/up ). His "Okums, in two parts ("ballad and "Latin ), is perhaps the highlight of the album, beginning as a dramatic bass solo, complete with vigorous strumming and building into an up-tempo Latin romp that inspires some of pianist Aaron Graves' most energetic improvisations. The weakness here, as elsewhere, is that the tracks are mostly kept fairly short and Graves' solo seems to end just as he was really getting going. These men are obviously talented improvisers and it would have been nice to hear them stretch out a bit more.
Saxophonist and flutist T.K. Blue avoids this pitfall in his composition "A Single Tear of Remembrance ("ballad ), whose eleven-minute length allows time for his flute solo to develop more fully. He also pens "Shades of Bahia ("Latin ) which provides drummer Dwayne Broadnax a chance to come to the fore. As the band heads off to their next destination to the strains of Broadnax' "Dr. T.L.D. ("modal/funky ), the terrain they've conducted us over hasn't been as ambitious or as exotic as their travel itinery, but we can't say we haven't had surefooted guides.
Track Listing: 1. The Great One - 5:56;
2. A Single Tear of Remembrance - 10:48;
3. Straight Ahead - 5:35;
4. Okums Part I - 2:05;
5. Okums Part II - 4:05;
6. Early Time - 3:38;
7. Harriet Tubman - 5:57;
8. Shades of Bahia - 7:27;
9. Pinnacle of Joy - 5:28;
10. Dr. T.L.D. - 6:42.
Personnel: Hilliard Greene - bass;
Dwayne Broadnax - drums;
Aaron Graves - piano;
T.K. Blue - sax and flute.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.