A little bit of imagination is a good thing. Bassist Todd Coolman thought "outside the box" and came up with the idea of soliciting compositions from the public. He chose seven tunes which make up the program for the aptly titled Perfect Strangers. Hopefully, the voices that are heard here through Coolman, Eric Alexander (tenor saxophone), Brian Lynch (trumpet), Jim McNeely (piano) and John Riley (drums) will not remain strangers, and will continue to find avenues of expression for their music.
The music that Coolman chose travels mostly in the mainstream, but there are some which navigate away and offer more challenging waters. The bassist adds arrangements that give the music a striking body and allows the musicians a chance to stretch out and vent their imaginations and creativity.
"Crescent City Ditty" is a swinging kick-off. The music sits in that terrain consistently, with Lynch cutting loose with the first salvo through pithy phrases. Alexander is muscular on the tenor but still has the undercurrent of the rhythm flowing nicely. The horn men stand in fine contrast as they sandwich the liquid flow of McNeely. The rhythm section rounds it off with their nubile playing.
The opener has a pleasant sense of melody and development which the band essays neatly, but "C Minor Waltz" brings in a more sedate atmosphere. This laid back approach has a dark atmosphere that Coolman turns into an invitation with his arrangement. After he has laid down the path on the bass, he opens it up for McNeely who finds a quiet sparkle while Lynch and Alexander add a dark touch. All blend well to give the tune an unusual countenance.
The ballad "Pastorale" is a fine closing tune. It's an impressive piecethe empathy of the band bringing out the inherent beauty of the tune. It's a consummate underlining to music that calls for attention.
Coolman introduces perfect strangers with warmth, wit and commitment turning the music into an impressive body.
Track Listing: Crescent City Ditty; Full Circle; Connotation; Could You Imagine?; C Minor Waltz; Caribbean Sunset; Pastorale.
Personnel: Todd Coolman: bass; Eric Alexander: tenor saxophone; Brian Lynch: trumpet; Jim McNeely: piano; John Riley: drums.
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.