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Fred Randolph: Song Without Singing

Edward Blanco By

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In demand San Francisco Bay Area-based educator, composer and bassist Fred Randolph unveils his third album as leader, Songs Without Singing containing ten innovative originals and one cover tune recorded with his working quintet and other Bay Area musicians. A fixture in San Francisco's vibrant jazz scene and a member of Orquesta Dharma, the Melanthium Ensemble and the premier Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, this full-time high school teacher is one of the busiest artist on the West coast. His extensive musical background with jazz, blues, Latin and European classical orchestrations, serve him well with the fresh compositions and arrangements displayed here.

Long-time members of the Randolph quintet, trumpeter Erik Jekabson (misspelled on the CD listing) and tenor saxophonist Rob Roth, provide the meat of the music with superb solo moments on the opening "Song without Singing," inspired by Afro-pop singer Salif Keita from Mali. The following percussive funky cha, cha burner "Bittersweet," features dynamic moments from guitarist Matthew Charles Heulitt and drummer Greg Wyser-Pratte along with solid bass lines from the leader.

A haunting melodic structure inspired by the theme from an Oliver Stone movie, "W." is a challenging 12/8 time composition which Randolph describes as musical "portrait of madness" preceding the only straight-ahead piece of the set on "Hypnology," highlighting fine interchanges between the trumpeter and pianist with sprite solo space from Randolph on the acoustic bass. Pianist Marcos Silva—who spent 23 years as musical director for both Flora Purim and Airto Moreira—leads the group on the lightly-textured samba "No Agenda" while the band explores melodies and rhythms of Southern and Western Africa in a percussive tune featuring percussionist Brian Rice.

Alternating between Latin and straight grooves, "Caught In the Act" showcases the other percussionist Christian Pepin, pounding the congas as Randolph delivers pronounced bass work before the trumpeter and saxophonist bringing up the rear. The other Brazilian-tinged piece of music, "Pelo Mar" features the only vocals of the set with Sandy Cressman doing the honors as Alex Murzyn weighs in with a lovely solo on the flute making this number, one of the memorable tunes of the session.

The album closes on the slow melancholy "La Ultima Vez" (The Last Time), an Argentinian tango-styled tune inspired by bandoneon player and composer Astor Piazzolla featuring beautiful work from Rob Reich on the accordion. An exquisite project from bassist Fred Randolph whose talents as a composer and arranger, are what truly makes Song without Singing, an engaging musical experience. Presenting straight-ahead, Latin, Brazilian, and Afro styled rhythms, Randolph designs a varied musical package that will appeal to the most discerning aficionado, well done.

Track Listing: Song without Singing; Bittersweet; W.; Hypnology; No Agenda; How We See; Caught In The Act; King of Pain; Story; Pelo Mar; La Ultima Vez.

Personnel: Fred Randolph: acoustic bass, electric fretted bass, electric fretless bass; Matt Clark: acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes; Marco Silva: acoustic piano (5, 10); Rob Roth: tenor saxophone; Alex Murzyn: tenor saxophone (5, 6, 10), soprano saxophone (9), flute (10); Erik Jekabsen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Greg Wyser-Pratte: drums; Alan Hall: drums (6); Phil Thompson: drums (5, 10); Matthew Heulitt: electric guitar; Brian Rice: percussion; Christian Pepin: percussion (1, 7); Sandy Cressman: vocals (10); Rob Reich: accordion (11).

Title: Song Without Singing | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Creative Spirit Records

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