Jorge Nila – Tenor Time: Tribute to the Tenor Masters – Ninjazz 

by | Jun 14, 2019 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Jorge Nila – Tenor Time: Tribute to the Tenor Masters – [TrackList follows] – Ninjazz 001, 54:14 [1/4/19] *****:

(Jorge Nila – tenor saxophone; Dave Stryker – guitar, producer; Mitch Towne – Hammond B3 organ; Dana Murray – drums, engineer, mixer, mastering)

Omaha, Nebraska may not be the jazz capital of the Midwest, but there’s one jazz guy in the area who knows how to swing. That’s tenor saxophonist Jorge Nila, who started his music career in 1965, moved to NYC in 1978 where he studied with George Coleman, and then worked with Eddie Palmieri, Jack McDuff, Paul Simon, the B-52’s and other artists. In 1990, Nila returned to Omaha and in 2003 he issued his first album, The Way I Feel, on Dave Stryker’s Strikezone Records. Stryker (Nila’s childhood friend) plays guitar and produced Nila’s sophomore release, the 54-minute, nine-track Tenor Time: Tribute to the Tenor Masters. Along for the ride is Hammond B3 organist Mitch Towne, who has also collaborated with Stryker as well as blues singer Eric Gales; and drummer Dana Murray (also a native of Omaha), who toured with Wynton Marsalis and gigged and/or recorded with Donald Byrd, Jimmy Witherspoon, Roy Hargrove and others. Murray also acted as engineer, mixer and did the mastering for Tenor Time.

Anyone who is a fan of classic tenor sax music and wants to hear a new spin on familiar tunes should listen to what Nila has created, since it includes material associated with Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter (who used tenor in his early days), Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt. Nila opens with Gordon’s “Fried Bananas,” which comes from Dexter’s time in Europe. Stryker, Nila and Towne trade some tasty solos while Murray provides a mid-tempo groove. The party gets groovier when the foursome frolic and have some fun on Mobley’s “Soul Station,” from Mobley’s 1960 LP of the same name. “Soul Station” recaptures some of the definitive Blue Note vibe, especially when Nila improvises after the introduction. The soulfulness rises during “Soul Station” when Stryker takes the spotlight while Towne comps behind Stryker; and rises again when Towne showcases his organ skills. Other standouts include a carousing, album-closing adaptation of Harold Vick’s 1963 nugget, “Our Miss Brooks,” where Nila heads into bop territory; and an equally upbeat, upfront version of “Inner Urge,” the title track from a 1966 Joe Henderson record.

A beautiful stance permeates Nila’s wonderful, lightly bluesy treatment of Shorter’s “Infant Eyes,” from Shorter’s 1966 LP, Speak No Evil. “Infant Eyes” is a slowly emotive offering, readymade for sipping whiskey at a barstool while a gentle rain taps on the windows. The CD’s aesthetic also changes with Rollins’ Caribbean-flavored “The Everywhere Calypso,” a little-known gem from Rollins’ 1972 LP, Next Album. This newer rendition is nicely done, particularly Stryker’s guitar and the way he and Nila duet on the main theme. One piece doesn’t strictly follow the tenor sax tribute motif. There is a pop/RnB slant on “Rocket Love,” from Stevie Wonder’s 1980 release, Hotter than July, where Nila employs a higher-register tone which replicates Wonder’s harmonious melody, while Towne and Murray sustain an understated rhythmic foundation. Tenor Time: Tribute to the Tenor Masters is a standard, classic-sounding album where there are no surprises (and you don’t want them with this kind of tribute), and no disappointments either. This is a fine example of putting a fresh perspective on traditional jazz.

Fried Bananas
Soul Station
On a Misty Night
Infant Eyes
Rocket Love
Inner Urge
The Everywhere Calypso
The Eternal Triangle
Our Miss Brooks

—Doug Simpson


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