As a professional musician hoping to have a meaningful career, hiding one's light under a bushel, may not be the best way to recognizable success. Such might be the case for tenor saxophonist Jeff Ellwood. He may have fallen into the trap evinced by the Dave Frishberg ditty "I Want To Be A Sideman." But as the saying goes; "better late than never" as Ellwood released a self-produced debut, The Sounds Around The House.
Supported by several top shelf players such as pianist Alan Pasqua and drummer Joe LaBarbera among others, Ellwood has fashioned an album that builds on the compatibility and musicality of these qualified partners. The opening track is an Ellwood composition, "U-R," a contrafact based on the popular tune "All The Things You Are." While Ellwood has given himself a launching pad for his instrument's inquiring facility, it is LaBarbera's drum work that is brimming with purpose and drive.
The musical relationship between Pasqua and Ellwood is lengthy, starting when he became a member of Pasqua's band, where he remained for seven years. So Pasqua's participation on this release is not a surprise and his contribution of three compositions not unexpected. The titles are "Agrodolce," "Old School Blues" and "Barcelona." While each is different, they are all structured so as to take advantage of the working familiarity between these two players and capitalize on their strong improvisational capabilities.
The title track was written as a ballad by Alec Wilder and Johnny Mercer and first recorded in 1976 by Dick Haymes, who was a popular male crooner of the 1940s and 1950s. It is thoughtfully recreated here with Ellwood's tenor in a nuanced yet lavish mode, with Pasqua's solo brimming with ideas. Finally, Ellwood joins forces with highly regarded tenor-man Bob Sheppard for a Rick Margitza original "Provence." After a rather oblique opening sequence, it settles nicely into intensely focused narrative with each player finding their own foothold. Throughout the number Pasqua provides unerringly sensitive support.
To sum up this release one can look to the old adage "old friends are good friends."
U-R; Agrodolce; Old School Blues; Provence; The Sounds Around The House; King Henry;
Barcelona; The Honeymoon; For Roger
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