Hooking up with bassist Stanley Clarke
and keyboard player Larry Goldings
for a set of sweetly swinging chestnuts has saxophonist Webb playing in fine form. Although a session veteran, this is Webb's first release as a headliner and it gives him a chance to stand out. Webb plays with smooth tone and uses the full range of his tenor, which works well on ballads such as "I'll Be Around" and "Fly Me to the Moon."
Webb builds his solos skillfully and is matched by the quality of Clarke's and Goldings' turns. Clarke offers a deep acoustic bass sound throughout, getting some amazingly legato notes that fill the quartet's sound.
Sarah Manning Dandelion Clock
The demure face looking up from the cover of Dandelion Clock
contrasts Manning's often aggressive, experimental style, as she plays over a collection of original tunes and two covers, Michel Legrand
's "The Windmills of Your Mind" and "The Peacocks" by Jimmy Rowles
Her compositions offer enough harmonic room for Manning to craft exploring solos, often using long runs that seem to end in question marks. Never one to settle for an easy note choice when there's a more interesting one available, her solos soar in such post-bop ballads as "Marbles" and "Habersham Street."
Orrin Evans Faith in Action
Evans has been growing into a major figure in jazz piano, thanks to releases as strong as his 2010 release in tribute to saxophonist Bobby Watson
. Combining his own compositions and five by Watson, Evans plays smoothly through oblique runs and blues turns on solos, and lets his accompanistswhich include bassist Luques Curtis
and drummers Nasheet Waits
, Rocky Bryant and Gene Jackson
provide a solid base for his work.
Watson's "Appointment in Milano" features a pounding bottom underneath Evans' swift runs, which alternate between sweet scales and modal triplets. The delightful "Beattitudes," another Watson gem, combines an airy intro with a gentle melody. Musicians know it takes more to keep a ballad moving than a burning up-tempo number, and Evans shows his real chops on this one.
Brandon Wright Boiling Point
Saxophonist Wright is clearly a student of the 1960s, and these eight tunesincluding five original compositionsshow he learned well. This is a disc fans of swinging, smoky jazz will favor. Wright never overplays and fits in pianist David Kikoski
's playing marvelously. Case in point, the interplay on Jimmy Van Heusen's "Here's That Rainy Day." With Kikoski comping sweetly, Wright gets just enough blues to keep his solo emotional without going saccharine. On the other side of the coin, the interplay between Wright, Kikoski and trumpeter Alex Sipiagin
at the crescendo near the end of the samba-based "Castaway" is a real treat. All are playing hard but not over each other.
Jim Rotondi 1000 Rainbows
Rotondi's smooth chops and smart tune selection make this a delicious outing. Playing alongside a capable four-piece band, including Joe Locke
on vibes, Danny Grissett
on piano, bassist Barak Mori
and Bill Stewart
on drums, Rotondi shines on his compositions "Bizzaro World," "One for Felix" and "Not Like This," a beautiful ballad duet with Locke.