Better late than never. Although Frank Tiberi’s stature among his fellow musicians approaches legendary, it took a Woody Herman alumnus (John Nugent) with his own record company to appreciate the benefits of bringing the present leader of the Herman Herd into a studio to document his prodigious talents. And while doing so, to invite two of Tiberi’s ardent admirers and former “students,” saxophonists Joe Lovano and George Garzone, to take part in the session. Lovano and Garzone are graduates of the “Herman Academy of Jazz,” having sat next to Tiberi in that awesome sax section, and both say they learned many an important lesson about their craft from “the professor.” Those lessons are put to good use immediately on Tiberi’s “Spets Esrever” (the first and last sections of Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” written backward) whose unharnessed energy and power (after a charming a cappella intro by the saxophone trio) are akin to that released when one uncaps an oil well or opens the door to let a whirlwind in the house. Garzone and Tiberi frolic together on two more of Frank’s compositions, “Retrospect” (based on the standard ”I’ll Remember April”) and “The Garz and I,” and Garzone and Lovano (sans Tiberi but with Dave Reikenberg’s baritone sax added) enliven a loping rendition of Dizzy Gillespie’s “The Champ.” Tiberi, who is widely known as a master of all the woodwinds, plays soprano on the fleet–footed finale, “Cherry Key” (cherry key; get it, kemo sabe?), tenor the rest of the way. While Tiberi is wholly unflappable at breakneck speed, he’s even more comfortably at ease at more moderate tempos, wresting every nuance of warmth and soulfulness from the evergreens “Stella by Starlight” and “Body and Soul” as well as from his own compositions, “I Have Loved” (a marvelous duet with pianist Andy Laverne) and “Confusion.” The only minor problem I have is with drummer Adam Nussbaum, whose playing leans at times toward boisterous, drawing one’s ear away from the soloists, where it properly belongs. Laverne and James Williams, who alternate at the keyboard, are first–rate, and bassist Drummond is as dependable (and welcome) as a morning sunrise. While Tiberi may be the antithesis of a “young lion,” the teeth and claws haven’t been dulled by the passage of time but remain razor–sharp and eager for combat. Our thanks to Nugent and NY Jam for giving him an opportunity bare them one more time.
Track listing: Spets Eserver; Stella by Starlight; I Have Loved; Retrospect; The Garz and I; The Champ; Confusion; Body and Soul; Cherry Key (57:24).
Frank Tiberi, tenor and soprano saxophones; Joe Lovano, George Garzone, tenor saxophone; Andy Laverne, James Williams, piano; Ray Drummond, bass; Adam Nussbaum, drums; David Reikenberg, baritone sax (