Valery Ponomarev Jazz Big Band – Our Father Who Art Blakey – Zoho ZM 201001, 58:25 ****:
Big band bop at its best.
(Valery Ponomarev – trumpet, composer, arranger, conductor; Benny Golson – tenor saxophone tracks 2, 7)
Our Father Who Art Blakey is a live recording by the Valery Ponomarev Jazz Big Band from August and December 2014 at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Jazz at Lincoln Centre, and the Zinc Bar in New York City. It was undertaken by Ponomarev to recognize Art Blakey, both for his contribution to jazz music, but particularly for his mentorship to Ponomarev while he was with the Jazz Messengers during the mid-1970s.
This is a tight, driving, big band that plays Ponomarev’s charts with precision and a ‘take no prisoners’ approach to the music starting with Bobby Timmons’ “Moanin’”. After the opening statement by the band, Ponomarev takes over the solo space with his trumpet, which is then followed by tenor saxophonist Benny Golson in the first of his two guest appearances in this session. Golson at the time of this recording was eighty-five, and had been playing since he was a teenager. For anyone who has seen Golson perform in person recently, he is a sly and witty raconteur of jazz stories, that often makes up for the quality of his playing, which is clearly affected by his age.
Duke Jordan contributes two compositions to the set, starting with “Jordu” and then “No Hay Problemas”. The latter number was used by Director Roger Vadim in his 1959 film Les Liaisons Dangereuses and was played on the soundtrack by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. (Thelonious Monk’s bio says that he wrote most of the music used as the film score and never got credit for it…Ed.) Here trumpeter Josh Evans and tenor saxophonist Steve Carrington give exemplary solos, while drummer Victor Jones propels the band throughout with his Latin rhythm. The former tune was not so much a Blakey association, since he and The Messengers never recorded the piece, but was closely aligned with the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet. However Brown did play with the Messengers and Ponomarev idolized Brown. Therefore, the band takes on the tune, and dives into the arrangement showcasing trumpeter Chris Rogers and tenor saxophonist Peter Brainin.
The final track of this live session is Benny Golson’s “Blues March” which Blakey’s Jazz Messengers played numerous times, including when both Golson and Ponomarev were with the organization on separate occasions. As this is the longest track of the album, the band is able to find a solid groove, especially as drummer Victor Jones lays down the march beat with such swinging precision. Both Ponomarev and Golson take solos, with the latter in somewhat better form than on “Moanin’”. Pianist Mamiko Watanabe shows she has some serious chops, along with alto saxophonist Todd Bashore and trombonist Corey Wallace. It’s big band bop at its best.
TrackList: Overture; Moanin’; Crises; Jordu; No Hay Problemas; Gina’s Cooking; Blues March
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