Pete Mills – Sweet Shadow – Cellar Live CL070813, 70:15 ****:
(Pete Mills – tenor saxophone; Pete McCann – acoustic & electric guitar; Erik Augis – piano; Martin Wind – bass; Matt Wilson – drums)
While Pete Mills web site claims he is a native Torontonian, and although he clearly has roots there, his current location is Granville Ohio, where he teaches saxophone and improvisation at Denison University. Regardless of his antecedents or his current location, Pete Mills is the real deal, blows with authority and conviction, and deserves wider recognition.
In a session of mostly original material for this debut recording for Cellar Live records, Pete Mills is joined by a group of talented musicians, most notably drummer Matt Wilson, who seems to be a coveted player on the New York scene. Jumping in from the get go with a swinging opener “ Shiner” based on chord changes from the standard “ My Shining Hour” the band weaves an interesting harmonic interplay with the guitar of Pete McCann and pianist Erik Augis backing Mills astute tenor improvisation. “Summer” is a well thought-out follow on, with Mills in a fluidly introspective mood, with Erik Mills piano demonstrating his resourcefulness, and Wilson using his cymbals to full effect. The title track “ Sweet Shadow” has an conceptual substance and is filled with some sharp playing from Mills and an extended single-note solo from bassist Martin Wind.
A singular tip of the cap is offered by the band to composers whose pedigree goes back into both jazz and pop music history . Roland Kirk’s “Serenade To A Cuckoo” is a quirky little piece that gives drummer Wilson some space to demonstrate his rhythmic acumen, while Mills covers all the tenor keys. The Ellington/Strayhorn composition “Star Crossed Lovers” was written for the longer suite Such Sweet Thunder and has Pete McCann’s acoustic guitar in the forefront of the offering with Mills tenor in a bossa mood. In the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe gave a breathy rendition of “ Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” and here the band offers a lilting rendition with a strong arco bass solo from Martin Wind, tenor man Mills shows his effervescent style and pianist Augis demonstrates his block chord capability.
All in all this is a solid outing from a substantial band.
Track List: Shiner; Summer; The Snagel; Duo 1; New School; Sweet Shadow; Serenade To A Cuckoo; Close To Never; Duo 2; The Star Crossed Lovers; Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend; Blues For Mel; Elora Dolce; Momentum