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The Jim Butler Group: Postcards from the World

Edward Blanco By

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Saxophonist and band leader Jim Butler is a veteran musician who splits time between his home town of San Francisco and Tokyo and with the appropriately- titled Postcards from the World, delivers an audacious set of modern jazz blending select standards with fresh new material marking his group's fourth album together. Having led The Jim Butler Group on tours around the country, in Asia and the Middle East the past ten years, the album is in a sense, the culmination of that experience as the titles of many of the tunes suggest. A former lead alto saxophonist for the US Air Force band, college educator and sidemen for some of the finest musicians in the world, Butler is comfortable playing on the world stage and this recording is definite proof.

Butler's working group brings together a seasoned cast of world-class players of which, bassist Staff Sergeant Andrew Thomas Peck and drummer Tech Sergeant Marshall Gentry have performed alongside the saxophonist at some point during his eighteen-year tenure with the US Air Force Golden West Commanders Band. Anchoring the rhythm section is pianist Sam Grobe-Heintz, long-time Bay Area fixture and a member of several area bands.

The musical journey from the Postcards starts off from the "Road To Mombasa," a modern fiery burner inspired by a searing memory traveling on the most dangerous road between Nairobi and Mombasa. Unfortunately, the music is too good here and will only serve to heighten those thoughts if Butler had ever sought to erase them. The classic standard "Invitation" provides one of the many highlights found on the album, with an expansive arrangement that features some of the altoist best inviting solos of the disc. Yet, when you think you've heard the best of the lot, there's the driving "Eastern Samba" featuring more from the leader as well as excellent solos from the pianist and support from Gentry on the brushes.

Made into a classic by the great Dizzy Gillespie, "Tin Tin Deo" takes on new form here as Butler's arrangement develops the exotic elements of the tune into a straight number without detouring too much from its classic base. "Sunrise in Stockholm" and "Afternoon Falling on Nairobi" are as different as the titles indicate, one is up lifting and cheery while the other is comprised of a calmer texture. Now for the swing side of the spectrum, "Bangkok at Night" says it all as Butler and band mates let it all hang out on this one.

Adding a bit of post-bop to the repertoire, the "California Song" reminds Butler that Frisco is home yet, winding down the music, the band plays the last original and nod to journeys abroad with the very swinging "Kandahar" featuring plenty more of the leader's saxophone savvy. Hoagy Carmichael's "Star Dust" closes the program on the very memorable Postcards from the World which, documents a compelling performance from saxophonist Jim Butler and crew, on one attention-grabbing session worth repeated spins, nicely done!

Track Listing: Road To Mombasa; Invitation; Eastern Samba; Tin Tin Deo; Sunrise In Stockholm; Afternoon Falling On Nairobi; Bangkok At Night; Driftin'; California Song; Kandahar; Star Dust.

Personnel: Jim Butler: alto saxophone; Sam Grobe-Heintz: piano; Andrew Thomas Peck: bass; Marshal Gentry: drums.

Title: Postcards from the World | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Self Produced


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