The TechnoCats are a group of five talented young musicians, each of whom has ties to Michigan State University in East Lansing, as does composer (and co-producer) Gregg Hill, whose music the TechnoCats perform on this delightful album. One of the quintet's more diverting features is that the only horn is Chris Glassman's bass trombone; another is how seamlessly Glassman's axe blends with those of guitarist Nathan Borton and pianist Xavier Davis.
That is made clear from the outset, as Glassman's agile trombone, sounding much like its tenor counterpart, points the way on the hard-driving opener, "Come on Down." Borton takes the first of several tasteful solos there, while Davis fashions another. "Come on Down" is the first of two splendid arrangements by bassist Javier Enrique (yes, there are two Javiers in the quintet, albeit with a slight variation in spelling). All save two of the charts were written by members of the ensemble (four by Glassman, two others by Borton).
Borton's initial arrangement is the evocative "Go Figure!," on which the rhythm section digs in hard while Borton and Davis handle the animated solos. "Go Figure!" follows the scampering "Elden's Bop" and precedes the even-tempered "I Want to Live" (not to be confused with Gerry Mulligan's plaintive theme from the movie of that name), whose eloquent introduction is by Davis and whose melody is vaguely reminiscent of the standard "Tangerine." Light-hearted swing is the order of the day on "Inside Straight," with more solid rhythmic work reinforcing crisp solos by Borton, Davis, Glassman and drummer Michael Reed.
Hill saves his loveliest melody for "Loisiana," written for his wife, Lois. Its seductive rhythmic pattern leads to the surprisingly upbeat "Never Forget" (considering that it was written to mark the tragedy of 9/11) and genial "Ristra! Ristra!," which swings keenly behind spirited statements by Borton, Glassman and Davis. After a placid intro, "Sunny Daze" is exactly that, a cheerful swinger on which Reed sets the pace, Borton and Glassman trade well-aimed shots and Davis adds another engaging solo. The session closes with its lone ballad, "Thank You Notes," a warm and enticing showcase for soloists and ensemble.
While it may be a tad premature to add East Lansing, Michigan, to one's list of jazz hot spots, the TechnoCats certainly prove that there is an abundance of talent in them there hills. High marks for music and musicians alike.
Come on Down; Elden’s Bop; Go Figure!; I Want to Live; Inside Straight; Loisiana; Never Forget;
Ristra! Ristra!; Sunny Daze; Thank You Notes.
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