If you expected a trumpeter whose nickname is "Scrapper" to come out swinging on his first album as leader in twenty years, give yourself a gold star and a hearty pat on the back. That is precisely the modus operandi
on The Scrapper,
wherein New York-based John Sneider
leads a first-rate quintet through its paces on what in many respects seems like a homecoming, as everyone save tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm
was present and accounted for on Sneider's earlier recording some two decades ago. That means the entire rhythm section (organist Larry Goldings
, guitarist John Hart
, drummer Andy Watson
) has enlisted for a second tour of duty as Sneider's advance guard. That kind of longevity, not to mention loyalty, is not only extremely hard to find but worth its weight in gold.
Needless to say, everyone in the ensemble not only solos with verve and assurance but listens attentively and reacts accordingly whenever someone else has the floor. When that someone is Sneider, he amplifies a storehouse of well-focused ideas with a clear, bell-like sound and flawless technique. Frahm, who shares the front line, is another lyrical player who seldom lets a suitable phrase go unturned. Goldings, Hart and Watson have their moments as well, and none is less than rewarding. Sneider wrote three of the album's nine numbers, one saluting his nickname, "The Scrapper," the others epitomizing "the current political and social climate in our country." The first, "Mindfield," is a swift and exuberant flag-waver; the second, "Unpresidented," a coarse and often disjointed treatise presumably aimed more toward the White House and its present occupant.
Goldings wrote the beguiling "Critterbug" and warm-hearted "When Light Breaks," plus Miles Davis
' (it's been said) lyrical "Solar," a showcase for the laudable scatting talents of guest vocalist Andy Bey
. Helping spruce up the bill of fare are a pair of seldom-heard songs by Duke Ellington
, "Pyramid" (co-authored with Juan Tizol
) and "On a Turquoise Cloud," the latter of which leads to the album's special closing number, "Dinosaur Eggs," a laid-back groover with a '60s West Coast temperament written by Sneider's trumpet-playing son, David, who also solos with his dad (and shows that the apple hasn't fallen far from this tree). With all hands on deck and blowing in perfect unison, there could be no better way to close an admirable session whose achievement was twenty years in the making.
The Scrapper; Critterbug; When Light Breaks; Mindfield; Unpresidented; Pyramid; Solar; On a Turquoise Cloud; Dinosaur Eggs.