Mack Avenue Superband – Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival 2015 – Mack Avenue

Mack Avenue Superband – Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival 2015 – Mack Avenue MAC 1106 53:33 ****:

A band made up of stellar performers in jazz.

(Carl Allen – drums; Gary Burton – vibes; Tia Fuller – alto & soprano sax; Freddie Hendrix – trumpet; Christian McBride – acoustic bass & music director; Christian Sands – piano; Kirk Whalum – tenor sax)

The Detroit Jazz Festival is one of the singular jazz festivals of the summer season that takes place over Labor Day Weekend. In addition to the great music, presented at multiple venues, it is FREE to all attendees. Now how great is that! So when you bring some of the artists of Mack Avenue Records together for a “Superband” performance under the guidance of Christian McBride. the odds for a supersession increase dramatically.

This iteration of the “Superband” fulfils all the promise that the names attached to the project impart. With the exception of “Test Of Time” by Makoto Ozone, the remaining numbers were all composed by members of the band, starting with “Preach Hank!” by tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum. In a nod to the great R&B saxophonist Hank Crawford, the band gives soulful reading of the number, with the composer Whalum rocking out his solo and trumpeter Freddie Hendrix filling the air with his high notes. All of the band members take a piece of the action with exuberance.

Clearly the band enjoys playing the material as they show authoritative command and unwavering motivation towards the compositions. Whether it’s the muscular “Sudden Impact” by Freddie Hendrix or Christian McBride’s 5/4 “Paint Brushes” which has a couple of thoughtful solos from saxophonist Tia Fuller and vibist Gary Burton in addition to McBride’s own stellar work. The Japanese pianist Makoto Ozone wrote “Test Of Time” which Gary Burton brought to the band and it is a delightful fit for the group’s sensibilities, with a blues inflection that is intensely reflective. Tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum and pianist Christian Sands do a deep dive into the genre with keen-minded solos.

The use of an exclamation mark (!) after both “Preach Hank!” and the closing track “Up!” is somewhat puzzling as it is generally used to show force in speaking or a strong feeling. Perhaps the attribute most appropriate under the circumstances would be strong feeling as “Up!” crackles with energy in an up-tempo pace. Each of the band members runs out their solos in a bright and spirited manner, which gives the composition its purpose. The Mack Avenue Superbad has been turning out albums annually since the 2012 Detroit Jazz Festival. Long may this tradition continue.

TrackList: Preach Hank!; Sudden Impact; Paint Brushes; All You Have To Be Is You; Decisive Steps; Test Of Time; Up!

—Pierre Giroux

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