Markus Howell – Get Right! – Posi Tone Records PR8198 – 54:22 – *****
(Markus Howell – alto sax, flute – Joe Magnarelli – trumpet, flugelhorn; Michael Dease – trombone – Art Hirahara – piano; Rodney Whitaker – bass; Luther Allison – drums, piano (#9) )
Lovers of classic hard bop, with a heavy dose of the Blue Note vibe from the 1960s, will relive it, when you hear this “feel good” music being played by modern millennium jazz musicians. It helps when the front line horns (sax, trumpet, and trombone) have an ensemble blend that highlights the gospel and soulful melodies that are so intoxicating. It’s hard to describe what makes hard bop so appealing, but the warm glow this genre elicits needs little description. It simply needs to be experienced. Markus Howell’s debut CD, Get Right! passes the soul satisfaction test with flying colors.
It certainly helps when Posi Tone’s matchmaker guru, Marc Free, puts Howell with top label mates, and contemporaries like trumpeter, Joe Magnarelli, trombonist, Michael Dease, and a tight rhythm section of pianist, Art Hirahara, bassist Rodney Whitaker, and drummer, Luther Allison. Magnarelli and Dease are at the top of their game, and Markus fits right in with a sweet tenor tone, and seven of his own compositions that groove mightily. The other three tracks, from Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, and Jimmy Heath are wise choices. Frankly, there is not a weak track here, which is rare for a debut issue.
Right away the opening title track sets a standard that continues throughout the nearly one hour session recorded on Sept.17, 2018 at Acoustic Recording in Brooklyn. The horn blend is sparkling, and the rhythm section is firmly in the pocket. “One for Craig” has a catchy melody and Howell’s alto tone brings to mind, Jackie McLean, with its familiar blend of sweet and sour. “Warfare” is described by Markus as a testimony to a sibling rivalry with his brother, as a child. It’s properly hard charging, as his sax and Art’s piano go at it.
Wayne Shorter’s “Dear Sir” is a gorgeous ballad, featuring Markus’ flute and Mags’ burnished flugelhorn. “Out of the Night” from Joe Henderson’s Page One, Blue Note period, is a minor blues that would fit in as a movie or situation comedy opening theme. Art’s piano solo is a winner.
“Glory Days” is my favorite track and its theme sounds like an anthem. Solos by both Dease and Magnarelli exemplify pure class. Jimmy Heath’s “Bruh Slim” has a Caribbean lilt that will brighten anyone’s spirits.
“Faithful” is a deeply moving spiritual hymn, and the closer, “Blues for W.J.” is a lively bebop based dedication to Howell’s former pastor, that features all three horns.
Markus Howell has certainly got it right – excellent acoustics, strong tight arrangements, superb horn blend, and a joy for hard bop fans. Solid five stars…
One for Craig
Out of the Night
Blues for WJ