The SF Jazz Collective's second Nonesuch release focuses on the compositions of John Coltrane, with a few originals thrown into the mix. Despite the fact that this ensemble has so many "stars, its cohesiveness as a unit is palpable. No one seems to steal the spotlight, although certain musicians are featured on specific tunes.
Bobby Hutcherson's vibes take center stage on Coltrane's classic "Naima, after a beautifully voiced ensemble introduction. Hutcherson's intonation is impeccable and his technical prowess does not get in the way of conveying the more emotional elements that the piece seems to demand of the soloist. His solo is one of the disc's highlights.
"Scrambled Eggs comes from the pen of trumpeter Nicholas Payton. Its quirky head is first played by the rhythm section before the horns follow. The composer leads off the soloing, sticking closely to the melody at first before getting into more abstract flourishes and some staccato jabs. Renee Rosnes then takes a solo that is bookended by some collective improvisation from the horns. Payton's growling comes to the forefront as the group plays the theme out.
Another highlight is "Half Full, a Joshua Redman original. Redman, the group's artistic director, chooses to infuse this piece with a variety of different moods. Hutcherson is again out front at the beginning; his solo goes from an initial state of reflectiveness to a climax punctuated by some spiritual calls by the horns. A more upbeat theme is then introduced and Rosnes solos in funky post-Hancock fashion, perfectly placing clusters of notes, building tension and utilizing trills effectively. Eric Harland's drumming is particularly supportive of Redman's solo, as he accentuates the composer's lines and inspires the tenorist to further flights of improvisation.
Mention also must go to Miguel Zenón, particularly for his rhythmically intriguing solo on Harland's tune, "Development, which closes the set. The alto saxophonist's lines display a remarkable fleetness and clarity.
In short, a good disc by a quality ensemble. Let's hope these musicians stay together for another round.
Track Listing: Moment's Notice; Naima; Scrambled Eggs; Half Full; 2 and 2; Crescent; Africa; Development.
Personnel: Bobby Hutcherson: vibraphone, marimba; Joshua Redman: tenor and soprano saxophone;
Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Miguel Zen
Year Released: 2006
| Record Label: Nonesuch Records
| Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream