Frank Potenza Trio – Old, New, Borrowed, & Blue – Capri Records CAPRI 74093-2, 54:33 ****1/2:
(Frank Potenza – guitar, vocals; Holly Hoffman – flute, alto flute; Joe Bagg – organ; Steve Barnes – drums)
Dedication is a staple for artists, regardless of the medium. Frank Potenza inhabits this spirit as a musician and educator. He has expanded the jazz experience beyond recording and performance. He had been awarded a Full Chair at the Thornton School of Music (University of Southern California). A respected author, and magazine contributor, Potenza has been able to share his vision and academic discipline in a variety of Master Classes. He believes in a certain sense of “community” that creates a bond between a song and a musician. This bond is predicated on a respectful knowledge of the original work established prior to potential interpretation.
This philosophy has been integrated into “Old, New, Borrowed & Blue”. Operating with his trio featuring Joe Bragg on organ and Steve Barnes on drums, the dynamic has been augmented by Holly Hoffman on flutes. The resultant ten tracks are well-constructed, and permit the instrumentalists to explore the song harmonics. The opening cut, Jimmy Smith’s “Ready and Able” percolates with a scintillating dual lead shared by Potenza and Hoffman. With flawless transitions, incandescent solos are rendered on organ, flute and guitar. There is an unlikely, but stylish take on the popular country tune “Ode to Billie Joe”. Potenza’s discerning, fluid guitar licks approximate the feel of the original version. The jazzy conversion is perpetuated with a one- and-a-half-minute bouncy organ run. On the Fats Domino hit “I’m Walkin’”, Potenza has a restrained tasteful vocal, as the number swings with a Miles Davis inspired beginning, smooth organ riffs and crisp drum inflections. “You’ve Got a Friend”, a familiar standard, feels more like a traditional jazz piece, entwined in thoughtful guitar lines.
The musicianship is uplifting and inventive. On “A Weaver of Dreams” – a rare duo of flute and guitar – a delicate atmospheric interaction is established. Hoffman’s timing and phrasing are elegant and flow gracefully. The Wes Montgomery staple “Road Song” pays homage to this pioneer with a waltz time cadence, and bossa nova rhythms. An original composition, “Jacaranda” invokes a Samba blush, accentuated by a dominant guitar lead.
The music has a consistency, devoid of incongruity and excess. Each musician contributes to the project with confidence and verve, without interference. The liner notes offer some insightful details on the different tracks.
TrackList: Ready and Able; Ode to Billie Joe; I’m Walkin’; Party Time; Road Song/OGD; A Weaver of Dreams; Star Eyes; jacaranda; I Wanna Be Loved; You’ve Got a Friend.
— Robbie Gerson