Tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, who has been active on the jazz scene for several decades in a variety of settings, is the common factor between these two top shelf recordings. The first is a duo date with veteran pianist Harold Danko; the latter features Perry as a member of drummer Christian Finger's international band.
Rich Perry & Harold Danko
Rhapsody is a very appropriate title for the duo meeting of Perry and Danko. The two men, who first played together in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and have since worked together on many small group recording sessions - typically quartet or duo dates - have no qualms about working their magic on seven of the most frequently played standards. There is no showboating at all, just imaginative yet restrained improvisations upon these familiar themes that never venture too far from the original melodies, even songs like "Star Eyes that all too often seem to be played on autopilot. No matter who is in the lead, the backing musician provides the perfect accompaniment.
Perry's mature tone, while it may not be easily recognizable to many listeners in a blindfold test, is not overly influenced by any one tenor saxophone great. Danko has never sounded better as an accompanist, finding just the right chords behind Perry every time. They also add two familiar (if less frequently performed) compositions: a soft, moving take of Tadd Dameron's "Soultrane and a lush, subdued finale of John Coltrane's "Central Park West that suggests a quiet Manhattan evening after everyone has turned in for the night.
Merge Into Beauty
Drummer Christian Finger's Merge Into Beauty draws from many influences, though his mix of mostly post-bop originals and a pair of standards sounds much like a suite. Accompanied by Perry's eloquent tenor sax plus a fine rhythm section with pianist Vadim Neselovskyi, bassist Adam Armstrong and guitarist Tom Chang, Finger's compositions have hooks that immediately grab the listener, while the musicians build upon the tension created with spellbinding solos and potent interaction, the leader's soft hands and precise cymbal work adding just the right touch.
Highlights include the moody lament "End of an Era (For Elvin Jones) , along with the haunting, fragile "Halfway Till Dawn (For Billy Strayhorn) , which is heard in two separate renditions, the first being straight-ahead and the latter arrangement tense and abstract. In several places the Momenta String Quartet provides a quiet segue with a brief "String Interlude . The standard "Falling in Love With Love is reworked into an intricate post-bop setting that strays far from its usual path, featuring Perry with Armstrong and Finger providing the pulse. The poignant finale is Jimmy Rowles' timeless ballad "The Peacocks , which is introduced by Neselovskyi alone before the full band enters, Perry matching the pianist's emotional peak.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: I Hear a Rhapsody; Soul Trane; Come Rain or Come Shine; Beautiful Love; Yesterdays; Autumn Leaves; Star Eyes; Like Somone in Love; Central Park West.
Personnel: Rich Perry: tenor sax; Harold Danko; piano.
Merge Into Beauty
Tracks: Nu Drance; End Of An Era (For Elvin Jones); String Interlude I; Halfway Till Dawn (For Billy Strayhorn); Alone In Cologne; String Interlude II; Heartsong; You Make Nice Noise; Halfway Till Dawn II; String Interlude III (My Little Prayer); My Little Prayer; Falling In Love with Love; The Peacocks.
Personnel: Christian Finger: drums; Rich Perry: tenor sax; Adam Armstrong: bass; Vadim Neselovskyi: piano; Tom Change: guitar; Momenta String Quartet: Miranda Cuckson: violin; Annaliesa Place: violin; Stephanie Griffin: viola; Joanne Lin: cello.