Ferit Odman – Dameronia With Strings – Equinox Music – vinyl

Ferit Odman – Dameronia With Strings – Equinox Music EMLP0002, 42:12 stereo vinyl ****1/2:

Drummer puts together a masterful tribute to a great jazz composer.

(Ferit Odman – drums; Terell Stafford – trumpet; Danny Grissett – piano; Peter Washington – bass; Antoine Silverman – violin, concertmaster; Diane Montoe – violin, concertmaster; Tamara DeMent – violin; Chris Cardona – viola; Emily Brausa – cello; Clarice Jensen – cello; David O’Rourke – strings arrangement, cond.)

Turkish drummer Ferit Odman chose a special concept for his third album. He has elected to pay homage to a great (if not renowned) jazz composer and arranger, Tadd Dameron. Dameronia With Strings revisits various arrangements by Dameron, for Sarah Vaughan (1946), Blue Mitchell’s “Smooth As The Wind” (1961) and the 1956 John Coltrane quartet (“On a Misty Night”, Soultrane”) The legendary Philly Joe Jones chose Dameron’s arrangement of “Look Stop & Listen”  to be an integral part of the Magic Touch session. Dameron also arranged a version of this for Benny Goodman.

Somewhat unknown to the general public, Tadd Dameron was celebrated in the jazz community for his innovative approach to jazz. The earliest tribute band, Dameronia, was formed by Philly Joe Jones in 1982. This band, which included Don Sickler, Benny Powell, Frank Weiss and Johnny Griffin recorded Look, Stop &  Listen in 1983 on Uptown Records. Now more than thirty years later, Odman expands the arrangements to include a string sextet. The jazz quartet consists of Terell Stafford (trumpet), Danny Grissett (piano), Peter Washington (double bass) and Odman on drums. On a limited (1000 copies) all analog 180-gram vinyl, this music receives the deserved lush acoustics for these intricate compositions. Things get off to a whirlwind start as “On A Misty Night” unfolds. The trumpet lead has a classical string background, with a cinematic effect. Grissett’s piano solo is an impressive feat of notation. Washington’s double bass solo is augmented by the strings. Odman uses subtlety to anchor the arrangement with a variety of complex brush and cymbal work. “If You Could See Me Now” begins as a tender ballad and a winsome trumpet creates atmosphere. Again piano and bass solos are followed by nimble, understated tempo transitions. A finishing string interlude provides nuanced shading.

The prevalence of the strings continues on “Just Plain Talkin’”. Stafford wails on his trumpet and there is a terrific double bass/drum duet before Odman initiates a nimble drum fill and solo. His work with brush and cymbals is graceful and intriguing on this bluesy jam “Smooth As The Wind” encapsulates the unique combination of straight-ahead jazz and sweeping melodic accents. Strings play in the melody lead and are punctuated by jazz trumpet. The resulting imagery is graceful and finger-snapping at the same time.

Side B has back-to-back songs from The Magic Touch. “Look, Stop & Listen” was originally performed by the incomparable Philly Joe Jones. While Odman was complementary to the ensemble on prior cuts, here the drummer cuts loose. This is hard bop at its finest as Odman executes furious drum fills and solos. His technique and control is exemplary. This classic arrangement (piano, double bass, drums) is an old school trio. Grissett contributes a lively solo (perhaps his best one) that is reminiscent of players like McCoy Tyner.. The second piece switches gears entirely. Stafford’s subtle horn lead is joined by a string counter. The dual effect washes over the rhythm section. Each performance has its own agility and dynamics. “Our Delight” has a string intro with a trumpet lead. There are staccato rhythm accents and the strings are featured. On “Soultrane” (obvious prior credit reference), a rare violin lead (giving the song a “gypsy” quality) sets the tone before the trumpet takes on the chorus. The melodic construction is flawless. Grissett’s final solo precedes the merged close of trumpet and strings.

Dameronia With Strings raises the analog bar with this limited edition 180-gram vinyl. The stereo mix is excellent. The range of instrumentation is captured with clarity and texture. The percussion and piano display crispness and the trumpet glows with richness and depth. The string sextet fits in precisely at all times. Takao Fujioka’s cover art and design is beautiful.

TrackList:

Side A: On A Misty Night; If You Could See Me Now; Just Plain Talkin’; Smooth As The Wind
Side B: Look Stop & Listen; You’re A Joy; Our Delight; Soultrane

—Robbie Gerson

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