Some band leaders put recordings together as if they should be the only soloist, the other musicians mere accompanists. Gary Versace, here as organist, has successfully sidestepped that boring, egotistical approach. "First Things Last, a simple piece that serves the function of an up-tempo swing tune, is a good example of how the band really plays together. It's great to hear how drummer Billy Hart and Versace interact during his organ solo, trading snappy rhythmic ideas. Rich Perry's tenor solo followshe also possesses significant rhythmic power and fantastic sound. His solo builds to a boiling peak through Hart's prodigious dynamic control.
John Abercrombie's guitar playing draws you in, making you want more, as the ensemble starts the out-head. The guitarist's "Excuse My Shoes, the only non-Versace tune, has a very interesting spacey, straight-eighth note feel that is pushed rhythmically, almost exclusively, by the drums letting the guitar, organ, and tenor create further rhythmic freer lines without the organ bass pedals hammering out the chord changes. Hart's drumming here at times harkens back to his work on Miles' On the Corner.
The title track is a gentle jazz waltz in which Abercrombie plays part of the melody, then passes it to Perry's tenor. Versace's inspired organ solo is the highlight. "Ours, a ballad, goes into a soft double-time feel for the solos; Abercrombie, Perry, and Versace all play wonderfully. The seventh and last track is "Russian Playground, which sounds like the soloists enjoy playing over these changes in the slightly mysterious, dark-hued multiple of three.
Throughout this recording, Abercrombie displays a composer's sense of dynamics (background and foreground) that most players just don't have. Throughout, Hart's drumming provides the perfect groove, dramatically disappearing here or exploding there, pushing the soloist or, in a subtle manner, getting out of the way. He is truly a jazz great.
Homeland; 2 2 2; First Things Last; Excuse My Shoes; Time And Again; Ours; Russian
John Abercrombie: guitar; Billy Hart: drums; Rich Perry: tenor sax; Gary Versace: Hammond
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