Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Doug Webb Provides Perfectly Lowlit West Coast Ambience

If we told you what character saxophonist Doug Webb plays on tv, that would be distracting. His new album Midnight is probably a lesser-paying situation but it’s just as fun (more about that later). Webb is pretty ubiquitous on the West Coast and has played with everybody: Freddie Hubbard, Quincy Jones, Horace Silver and many others. The setup behind him is interesting: Larry Goldings on piano rather than organ, Stanley Clarke on upright bass instead of electric and Gerry Gibbs adding counterintuitive, understated flash behind the kit. This is a fun session, pure and simple, a bunch of pros prowling familiar terrain: most of the time they achieve a nocturnal, oldschool West Coast cool, but when the good times spill over they ride the energy for all it’s worth.

Try a Little Tenderness breathes some fresh bubbles into a piece that gets flat quickly since everybody plays it. I’ll Be Around (the pop standard, not  the Howlin’ Wolf classic) has a swing wide enough to get a Mack truck through and a genuinely gorgeous, starry Goldings solo. Gibbs works Fly Me to the Moon as a subtle shuffle beneath Webb’s mentholated, opening tenor solo and Goldings’ more expansive spotlight. And it’s cool hearing Clarke, probably the last person you’d expect to get a Ray Brown impression out of, do it with a grin.

You Go to My Head gets a gently pulsing alto-and-piano duo treatment with Joe Bagg on the 88s. The Boy Next Door, with Mahesh Balasooriya on piano, has Clarke seizing more territory as he typically does, Gibbs all too glad to jump in and go along for the ride. Webb’s warm, lyrical alto work sets the stage for another glistening gem of a solo from Goldings on Crazy She Calls Me. They take Charlie Parker’s Quasimodo and set it up straight, Goldings’ unselfconscious geniality giving way to Webb to take it into the shade and then joyously out again. They close with Emily, by Johnny Mandel (who has raved about Webb’s version), a clinic in nuance on the part of the whole quartet, poignancy through a late-evening mist, an apt way to close this very smartly titled album. It’s out now on Posi-Tone. Oh yeah – Doug Webb plays Lisa Simpson’s sax parts on tv. There is a slight resemblance.

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September 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: The Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet – Bien Bien!

How can you tell if a latin jazz album’s any good? Well, for one, if you can dance to it. For the new one by trombonist Wayne Wallace‘s Latin Jazz Quintet, the answer is a joyous si! Over the course of two deliriously good Ellington covers, an imaginative rearrangement of a Coltrane classic and some rambunctious originals, they cover a variety of styles perfect for swinging or snuggling across the floor. In the spirit of the great latin bands of the 40s and 50s, there are as many as four trombonists on the album, including Ellington Orchestra vets Julian Priester and Dave Martell along with Murray Low on piano, David Belove on bass and percussionists Michael Spiro and Paul van Wageningen on trap drums. Obviously, with all the trombones, they go for a big sound, but there’s plenty of space for the rest of the band as well.

Of the originals, the best is the album’s title track, a rousing guaguanco. Eddie Harris’ Freedom Jazz Dance gets a slinky bomba treatment; another original, Mojito Cafe sets an expansive Low piano solo over some tricky changes and eventually a crescendoing call-and-response between the vocals and Wallace’s trombone. Memo Acevedo’s Building Bridges is inspiring and optimistic, with a sweet ensemble horn chart. The deceptively simple cha-cha Playa Negra – another original – is bouncy and even seductive. And the Duke would be proud of how Wallace works In a Sentimental Mood as wee-hours theme music, along with the group’s strikingly dark, intense version of Going Up (Subete).

The album wraps up with two innovative covers. Sonny Rollins’ Solid is basically a blues with a latin groove, transformed into a showcase in subtlety as the group brings it down to just Low and the percussion before soaring up again. And Coltrane’s Africa is brought vividly into focus, straight up and accelerated considerably over an unstoppable groove. It’s quite a change from the original but it works because it’s so different, and embraces the melody so strongly. This works equally well as dance music, as party music and just for listening. Wallace is a California native with an exhaustive gigging schedule: his next one with this crew is as part of the San Ramon Jazz Series at the San Ramon Library, 100 Montgomery St. in San Ramon, CA on November 20 at 8 PM.

October 30, 2009 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment