The Denver-based quintet Jazz WORMS recorded its first album, Crawling Out
, in 1987. Based on the time it took to record a second, Squirmin'
, they may as well be called the Jazz SNAILS. To be fair, there are reasons why the next go-round took so long to materialize, the most conspicuous being success. In '87 the members of the quintet were relative newcomers to the jazz scene, merely finding their way; since then they have led busy and successful lives as leaders and sidemen, traveling around the world while performing and recording with a Who's Who of celebrated artists and ensembles. It wasn't until a 2014 reunion concert that the group performed again as a unit. While that gig spawned the idea for a second album, it still took three years to assemble the quintet in a studio and four more to release the music from that session on CD.
Happily, all members of the quintet remained alive and well, which was essential, as WORMS is an acronym of their last names: pianist Andy Weyl
, saxophonist Keith Oxman
, drummer Paul Romaine
, cornetist Ron Miles
and bassist Mark Simon
. W-O-R-M-S. Can't say whose idea that was, but it was a good one. Happier still, the camaraderie and teamwork that pervaded the group's earlier album is also alive and well in a buoyant bop-based rendezvous that consists of eight original compositions, two each by Oxman, Weyl, Simon and Romaine. The mood is upbeat throughout, and reminiscent in some ways of an even earlier time, the heyday of the Blue Note and Prestige labels in the '50s and '60s. The closing number in particular, Oxman's light-hearted "Chimento Files," prompts memories of Mobley, Hubbard, Silver, Blakey and their peers.
Simon's groovy "Launching Pad" sets the tone, cruising earnestly along on the wings of brisk counterpoint between Oxman and Miles, and Oxman's at times over-the- top soloing. Romaine wrote the assertive "Bu's Box" and lively "Wheaty Bowl" for his pet birds, Oxman "Joaquin" and "Chimento Files" for friends. Weyl composed the aptly named "Lickity-Split" and "Balladesque," Simon the seductive "What If All?," whose melody skirts the edges of pianist Bobby Timmons
' classic, "Dat Dere." Miles solos tastefully there, as he does on several other numbers, complementing similarly engaging statements from Oxman, Weyl and Simon. Three decades on, Jazz WORMS are as nimble as ever, delivering high-calibre jazz that spans the years and speaks persuasively to enthusiasts of all ages. Although the album's playing time is only forty-five minutes, scarcely any of that time is wasted.
Launching Pad; Bu's Box; Joaquin; Lickity-Split; Wheaty Bowl; What If All?; Balladesque; The