Alex Norris Organ Quartet – Extension Deadline – BJU

Alex Norris Organ Quartet – Extension Deadline – BJU – BJUR 052, 50:29 ****1/2:

(Alex Norris – trumpet, Flugelhorn; Gary Thomas – tenor saxophone; George Colligan – Hammond A-100 organ; Rudy Royston – drums)

Emerging label BJURecords has accomplished a lot in under a decade. Since 2008, they have put the jazz scene in Brooklyn on the map. Brooklyn Jazz Underground is a cooperative that has maintained a goal of promoting Brooklyn musicians. The lineup includes Anne Mette Iversen, David Smith, Adam Kolker, Rob Garcia, Owen Howard, Tammy Scheffer and David Cook. Their marketing style has influenced jazz collectives around the world. Trumpeter Alex Norris has released an album on this label.

Norris’ Extension Deadline is an organ quartet featuring Gary Thomas (saxophone), George Colligan (Hammond A-100 organ) and Rudy Royston (drums). The album gets off to a rousing start with the swinging bop title cut.  All three instrumentalists join in the opening before Norris takes his first trumpet solo. Colligan and Royston are a formidable rhythm section. Thomas follows with a muscular tenor run before Colligan takes off on Hammond which leads to Royston’s propulsive drum spotlight. The quartet revisits the melody at the end. “Night Watchman” has a relaxed bluesy groove as Norris switches to Flugelhorn. His solo is fluid, but still has complexity. Colligan and Thomas add to the moody resonance. The quartet displays tempo finesse and the lyrical aesthetics of great jazz. With an accelerated waltz-time (7/4 per the liner notes), “What Happened Here?” has moody texture and rhythmic sway. Colligan handles the first solo, and it bristles with punctuated licks. Norris follows on trumpet, weaving his sprightly play into the jam. Thomas contributes a lower-register tenor part, and plays effectively in tandem with Norris. Royston maintains impeccable timing. This could be a vintage Blue Note session.

On “San Jose” Norris pays homage to a trio of Latin Jazz bands (Manny Oquendo Y Libre, Timbalaye and Rumba Club). The arrangement has a distinctive swing feel (as do the prominent instrumental solos), but adopts some Latin-infused parts. The musicality and force of this quartet is always on display. In a significant change of pace, Bobby Hutcherson’s “Little B’s Poem” is arranged in a relaxed waltz-time. Switching to a Flugelhorn, organ and organ trio, Norris’ graceful notation is wistful. Colligan and Royston frame a cohesive rhythm section before a spooky-toned freewheeling organ solo with some nimble sustain work. Norris finishes up the number with melodic elegance. Reverting back to tougher jazz, “Where Angels Dare” has a straight ahead, late-night set translation. The dual trumpet/tenor lead utilizes harmony and counterpoint. Colligan comes out smoking before handing it off to a soulful Thomas and Norris’ tones are sharper in contrast. When the two combine, it has the intricacy of a larger ensemble. Up tempo dynamics infuse Colligan’s original composition, “Optimism”. After Colloigan’s spirited organ, Thomas’ solo is fluid with mellow tones. Norris adds his exciting take before re-joining the quartet in some interesting chord changes. Drummer Royston is an unwavering anchor to this group, and is featured on the rousing finale “Red Flag”.

Extension Deadline is succinct, with a high level of musicianship. Listeners can only hope for more to come from the Alex Norris Organ Quartet.

TrackList: Extension Deadline; Night Watchman; What Happened Here?; San Jose; Little B’s Poem; Where Angels Fear; Optimism; Red Flag

–Robbie Gerson

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