Nelson – Brothers Under The Sun – High Note HCD 7294 [4/14/2017], 59:43 ****1/2:
Vibraphonist’s tribute to Mulgrew Miller is jazz at its best!
(Steve Nelson – vibraphone; Danny Grissett – piano; Peter Washington – double bass; Lewis Nash – drums)
Vibraphonist Steve Nelson has been a member of the Dave Holland Quintet for over a decade. The Pittsburgh native received two degrees in music from Rutger’s University and teaches at Princeton. Additionally, he has recorded with Kenny Barron, Bobby Watson, David “Fathead” Newman, Johnny Griffin and Jackie McLean. He has also recorded as a band leader. Of his collaborations, Nelson maintains that on a personal and professional level, his association with pianist Mulgrew Miller was significantly impactful. Nelson appeared on Wingspan (1987) and Hand In Hand (1992).
Nelson has put together a tribute to Mulgrew Miller, titled Brothers Under The Sun. He has assembled a stellar quartet (Danny Grissett/piano; Peter Washington/double bass and Lewis Nash/drums) representing six Mulgrew compositions and other pieces that capture the pianists’ style. The opening track is a cool-breeze rearrangement of Harry Warren’s romantic ballad, “The More I See You”. This song has been covered by Dick Haymes and Nat Cole, but this ensemble glides thought the gentle swing. Nelson’s vibraphone lead is glowing and the three-piece rhythm section locks in flawlessly. Nelson’s solo at approximately 2:30 is articulated with intricate finesse. Grissett follows with an equally precise, colorful run that includes some soulful punctuation. Washington follows and Nash keeps everything coherent. The first Mulgrew number, “Eastern Joy Dance” is more intense with exotic accents and tempo shifts that offer Nelson and Grissett opportunities to open up and drive the jam. The highly recognizable “Grew’s Tune” is accessible medium-swing with classic jazzy waltz signature. The sweeping musicality lifts the quartet. The band showcases their instrumental agility on”Soul-Leo”. There is polyrhythmic hooks and grooves that take the funky jazz premise to a hard-driving level. Both Nelson and Grissett soar as the ever-dependable Washington/Nash duo respond to every transition. It is the longest cut (8:36) on the album, and perhaps the mist compelling.
An unexpected gem is the Rodgers/Hart show tune, “It Never Entered My Mind”. This has been covered by jazz greats Miles Davis and Chet Baker. This version is comparable. Keeping the atmospheric ballad wistfulness, Nelson and Grissett embrace the lyrical beauty. Straight-ahead jazz is prevalent throughout the album. On “Samba D’Blue” Brazilian undercurrents flavor the chemistry. Nelson and Grissest offer sparkling runs and both Washington and Nash get well-deserved solos. The title track (written by Nelson) is slower, but still maintains a cool jazz arrangement. Revisiting South America, “For Those Who Do” has a decidedly percussive quality that fits Nelson’s vibraphone potency. He blends expertly with Grissett. With an edgier bop flair, “New Wheels” is classic fifties jazz with dynamic piano and vibraphone parts. Washington unleashes a furious double bass solo that segues into a strong Nash solo. It seems more than appropriate that the finale is a direct tribute, “Melody For Mulgrew” (written by Grissett). The innate lyricism is captured by Nelson and Grissett.
Brothers Under The Sun is stellar. The quartet is tight and the prominent solos by Steve Nelson and Danny Grissett are spirited. The sound quality is very good subtle touches like vibraphone reverberation glow in the mix.
The More I See You
Eastern Joy Dance
It Never Entered My Mind
Brothers Under The Sun
For Those Who Do
Melody For Mulgrew