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Neal Miner: The Evening Sound

John Barron By

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Blurred by the multi-cultural, cross-genre jazz of today's global era, the sounds of specific geographical regions have become less prevalent on contemporary recordings. Neal Miner's The Evening Sound is an exception. Born and raised in Manhattan, and a fixture on the Big Apple jazz scene, the prominent bassist/composer has produced a disc of all-original material that is undeniably one-hundred percent New York. Inspired by the various facets of life in the city and conceived during years of sessions at the infamous Smalls jazz club, Miner's music is robust and highly swinging in convincing New York fashion.

While the overall focus of the disc is on the ensemble, Miner does allow himself ample room to showcase his gutsy, yet logical soloing style. With a heavy, rounded bass tone, Miner punctuates his notes with inflated buoyancy, moving the music forward, whether walking or soloing, at a relentless pace. The bassist displays an adept knowledge of the rich lineage of his instrument; the influence of Paul Chambers, Sam Jones and other bottom end innovators is quite evident.

Like his playing, Miner's writing pays strict adherence to tradition. His tunes pay a debt of gratitude to master jazz composers such as Horace Silver, Tadd Dameron and Duke Pearson. Arranged for a classic sextet sound of tenor sax, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass and drums, this straight-ahead collection of hard-swinging originals comes right out of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers tradition.

The standout tracks are "Night Owls, a clever bass and trombone feature written over the chord changes to the standard "Lullaby of the Leaves ; the contemplative, trumpet-led ballad "Willomere, dedicated to Miner's father with lush sectional writing and a colorful piano solo by Steve Ash; and "Blues For Red and Brown, Miner's bluesy tribute to his heroes Red Mitchell and Ray Brown.

The front line of the ensemble—trombonist John Mosca, tenor saxophonist/flutist Chris Byars (who handles arranging duties) and trumpeter Richie Vital—works well as a cohesive unit to breath life into Miner's music. Each is an inspired soloist with an overall mastery of the hard-bop language. Ash and drummer Tom Melito make the perfect rhythm section match for Miner's hard driving style.

The high level of musicianship and friendly interplay on The Evening Sound makes for a relaxed set of memorable, clever jazz that swings along comfortably, calling out for repeated listening.


Track Listing: A Clever Air; Contemplations; The Evening Sound; Coffee Shop; Shades of Blue; Night Owls; Urban Lights; Willowmere; Black Beans; Blues For Red and Brown.

Personnel: Chris Byars: tenor sax, flute; Richie Vitale: trumpet; John Mosca: trombone; Steve Ash: piano; Neal Miner: bass; Tom Melito: drums.

Title: The Evening Sound | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Smalls Records

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