After working and recording for decades with some of the jazz world's best and brightest talents, trumpeter John Bailey
released his first album as leader of his own group in 2018, the second in 2020 and, in 2023, his third, Time Bandits
, which shares a name but nothing more with Terry Gilliam's 1981 film fantasy.
Bailey leads an all-star quartet on this one, firmly anchored by drummer Victor Lewis
(the timekeeper on all of Bailey's albums) and including two more renowned masters, pianist George Cables
and bassist Scott Colley
. So much for quality control, which could not be in better hands. As for Bailey, one can draw a fairly direct line from Dizzy Gillespie
through Lee Morgan
, Freddie Hubbard
, Donald Byrd, Blue Mitchell
, Carmell Jones
and other well-known boppers to Bailey whose keen perception and command of the language are equaled only by his remarkable technique and radiant sound.
Bailey's chops are quickly tested on "Time Bandits," a pressurized cooker that opens the studio date (recorded at the famed Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey). Having nothing more to prove, Bailey and Co. lay that tempo aside and focus the rest of the way on warmth and charmwhich they do quite nicely, especially on the lovely Jerome Kern standard, "Long Ago and Far Away." That theme follows Bailey's bluesy "Various Nefarious" and precedes his soulful "Ode to Thaddeus," an earnest salute to one of his musical heroes, the late trumpeter Thad Jones.
Lewis wrote the groovy, off-kilter "Oh Man, Please Get Me Out of Here!," John Lennon and Paul McCartney the tender ballad "She's Leaving Home." Bailey's "Rose," the only free-form item on the menu (based on twelve-tone rows), never strays far from orthodoxy; and even if it did, Bailey offers a potent antidote in the guise of Garry Dial
's melodious and light-hearted "How Do You Know?," an homage to another of Bailey's role models, the late Ira Sullivan
. Another ballad, Cables' soft and leisurely "Lullaby" (on which he solos persuasively, as always), leads to the rhythmic finale, Bailey's buoyant "Groove Samba."
Bailey is a splendid trumpeter, and Time Bandits
a colorful showcase for him and his talented colleagues, each of whom is a dedicated team player and creative soloist. High marks for them and for the album's impressive lineup of pleasurable music.
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