Even the neo-traditionalists, the "neocons, have evolved their idiom in the past twenty-five years; that's what makes Thursday the 12thFrank Basile's debut albumso baffling. Nothing about it, from the arrangements, to the phrasing, to Basile's haircut on the cover, even suggests that it was recorded after about 1961. That's not to say it's badin fact it's quite goodjust odd.
Basile, a baritone saxophonist and accomplished journeyman, ups the weirdness factor in making music that isn't just straight-ahead, fundamentalist hard-bop, but music that would have been progressive in 1961. On Basile's original "Rabp's Delight, drummer Mark Ferber shifts his accents while the others flirt with modality: Pianist Adam Birnbaum plays Tyner-esque block chords and vamps against Basile's fluid, scalar phrases and sustained single notes.
The harmonic experiments continue (though less forthrightly) on the complex title track. Birnbaum, still the most advanced player, hides it among the virtuosic curlicues in his solos, and then suggests a flatter harmonic contour in his compingparticularly behind trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, who sets off carefully crafted fireworks from the moment he begins. Forty-five years ago, this band would have come across as one with an eye on the future.
There are, of course, more classic, elegant shades of jazz on Thursday the 12th. It kicks off soulfully with Thad Jones' "Lady Luck, charms with its rendition of the 1958 movie theme "A Certain Smile (piloted by Basile and Magnarelli's sunny phrasing), and presents Broadway standard "You're Getting to a Habit with Me as a fierce waltz. The album's ballad, Basile's "A December to Remember, has both sweetness and reflection, the latter appearing in a moment of beauty on the bridge when Basile and Magnarelli trade wistful four-bar passages.
There's honestly no reason that anyone who enjoys the mainstream jazz of the late Eisenhower years wouldn't also enjoy Thursday the 12th. It'd be right at home on the same shelf as Dexter Gordon's Dexter Calling (Blue Note, 1961), for example. In 2007, though, it can't really be regarded as mainstream or even straight-ahead: Basile plays retro, so much that even the neocons of the 1980s would have said so. But defying categories is okaythey did that in 1961, too.
Lady Luck; Rabp's Delight; A Certain Smile; You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me; Thursday the 12th; A December to Remember; This Could Be the Start of Something Big.
Frank Basile: baritone saxophone; Joe Magnarelli: trumpet; Adam Birnbaum: piano; Mike Blanco: bass; Mark Ferber: drums.