Coming Together – Chris Potter, Soprano/Tenor Saxophone/ Steve Wilson, Soprano/Alto Saxophone/ Terell Stafford, Trumpet/Flugelhorn/ Keith Javors, Piano/ Delbert Felix, Bass/ John Davis, Drums – Inarhyme Records

by | Nov 12, 2009 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Coming Together – Chris Potter, Soprano/Tenor Saxophone/  Steve Wilson, Soprano/Alto Saxophone/  Terell Stafford, Trumpet/Flugelhorn/  Keith Javors, Piano/ Delbert Felix, Bass/  John Davis, Drums – Inarhyme Records, 2009, 66:54 ****1/2:

This is an excellent, excellent album.  It offers eight superb compositions and very nice arrangements on three standards by a 24-year-old saxist/composer who demonstrated that he had a potentially magnificent future ahead.  This was to be the debut release as a leader by Mr. Brendan Romaneck.  A joyous accomplishment and assuredly the first of many such wondrous achievements.  

But the sessions tragically took place two months after Romaneck was killed on April 5, 2005 in a traffic accident.  Two weeks after his 24th birthday and two months prior to the booked dates.  Brendan’s parents and the musicians decided to proceed with the sessions as a remembrance and to honor his efforts.  Jazz lovers are fortunate that Keith Javors was able to have it released on his own new indie label – even if it took four more years.

Terell Stafford had already been signed to accompany Javors, Delbert Felix and John Davis.  Chris Potter and Steve Wilson were selected to take Romaneck’s sax parts.  The disc is very well recorded, with mastering by Bob Katz.  

The first six tracks are from the earlier quartet session featuring Potter, while the other cuts were recorded a few days later as a quintet with Wilson and Stafford.  A couple of duets and a trio performance from the sessions add to the variety. The booklet alludes to the influences of the Jazz Messengers and Hancock/Shorter era Miles.  I’ll add that Romaneck’s work is also not without nods in spots to Cedar Walton, Andrew Hill and the David Murray Quintet/Octet (particularly "Minion" – an astounding piece that is the highlight of the disc).

"My Shining Hour" kicks thing off with a piano-less trio Sonny Rollins vibe – the song title being reflective of what the sessions should have deservedly brought.  Track two provides the first glimpse of Romaneck’s composition skills.  The rhythm section opens for an expressive tenor solo showing much range.  This wonderful performance seems to end too soon with a fade-out.

The beautifully romantic ballad "Full Moon" reveals the composer’s affinity for writing for the saxophone.  Track four exudes skill all around with wide ranging soprano sax, along with a drums feature and really nice piano.  Cut five is a piano/tenor duo take of a standard Romaneck enjoyed playing.

Track six, although an original, immediately sounds like a jazz classic you’ve heard somewhere before.  It features intricately written piano and soprano interaction with a nice bass solo. "Coming Together" is introduced by a reappearing piano vamp which very much reminds one of the Jazz Messengers.  The full quintet just nails this one.  The post-bop "The Vibe" is reminiscent of a Cedar Walton quintet with a softer flugelhorn and noteworthy bass solo.

I believe the apex of Romaneck’s composing can be found on "Minion".  It builds into three sections.  After the introduction section, the quintet storms in to what seems to be a bigger band.  This is where I see the David Murray influence.  The layered writing for the alto sax and trumpet with its intricate charts seemingly make them sound like more than just two.  Very impressive!  The middle piano/bass/drums section sounds not dissimilar to Andrew Hill’s work. An unlikely combination, but it shows how much the composer had digested.  The tune returns to the David Murray furiousness before it mellows out at the end.  This is jazz of the very highest order.

Track 10 is a soprano/ piano duo again involving one of Brendan’s favorites to play.  The disc comes to a racing conclusion with the eleventh tune, "11-02".  The full quintet go back and forth with alto, trumpet and drums taking numerous turns soloing around a well conceived piano solo.  Again, a very high quality composition.

I’ve always chaffed when I hear a composer described as "gifted".  The writing level shown here by Mr. Romaneck is 100% the product of intense work and tremendous effort and drive.  He was not "gifted", he studied ferociously and strove mightily.  To have reached the pinnacle of a debut as a leader – only to be unable to participate with his own sax – is tragic well beyond words.  I suspect Brendan’s abilities would have been heartily appreciated over the coming years.  The qualities revealed in his composition "Minion"and others leave no doubt in my mind.  As it stands, his parents, family and many friends can stand extremely proud of what he did accomplish and the superbly emotional playing given to these sessions by the musicians and all involved parties.  This debut of his work is superior and deserving of the highest recommendation.

TrackList:  My Shining Hour; Dream Behind The Water; Full Moon; 3 Steps Ahead Of The Spider; Nancy With The Laughing Face; You’ll Never Know; Coming Together; The Vibe; Minion; Killing Me Softly With His Song; 11-02

—  Birney K. Brown

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