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Not since the days of Alfred Lion and Blue Note Records have we seen such a healthy stable of mainstream jazz artists develop as those men who currently make up the hard bop ensemble One For All. Eric Alexander, Steve Davis, David Hazeltine, Joe Farnsworth, and Jim Rotondi are all at the top of their games and not only work collaboratively as a team, but also boast sizable catalogs as leaders for a variety of labels. In the case of Rotondi, the brash trumpeter has just released his fourth set for Criss Cross and it further solidifies his stature as one of New York’s finest.
Although Rotondi usually works with his One For All buddies or other Criss Cross colleagues, this time around he’s opted for a different line-up that gives Reverence a fresh new perspective. Alto man Mike DiRubbo, like Jim Snidero before him, just may be one of the most original voices to come along in some time. Pianist Anthony Wonsey is a regular member of Nicholas Payton’s band and rhythm mates John Webber and Willie Jones III have recently spent time anchoring Horace Silver’s latest ensemble.
A four-note riff sets “Skip’s Blues” on its way, with composer DiRubbo swinging full force into his opening gambit, a bristling Rotondi to follow. Wonsey digs in deep with some Tynerisms, as the vamp returns and Jones gets in a few licks of his own. The title track is a charming waltz that utilizes stop time passages to launch solos from Jim and Mike. Wonsey then gets into the act with the beguiling “Lenny’s Lens,” a bluesy line with an extended tag.
Up next are four standards off the beaten path, with Cedar Walton’s “N.P.S.” sporting a boogaloo beat and some ardent trills from Rotondi that he resolves skillfully. Jimmy Rowles’ “The Peacocks” throws a lingering image as muted trumpet brings a poignant message to the fore. By contrast, “David Cup” is some dynamic bebop and Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” is a revamp in a seductive bossa bag. With the blues at a premium, Joe Henderson’s “Step Lightly” goes at a moderate pace and allows for extended spots from Wonsey, Rotondi, and DiRubbo.
Taken in tandem with his other new project on Sharp Nine, Reverence should help Jim Rotondi gain some ground in the popularity polls, not to mention the testimony it provides in regards to the trumpeter’s substantial talent.
Track Listing: Skip
Personnel: Jim Rotondi (trumpet & flugelhorn), Mike DiRubbo (alto sax), Anthony Wonsey (piano), John Webber (bass), Willie Jones III (drums)
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.