(Pete Zimmer, drums / Michael Rodriguez, trumpet / Joel Frahm, tenor sax / Toru Dodo, piano on 7 tracks / Rick Germanson, piano on 3 tracks / John Sullivan, bass)
I’ve long-believed that the most accomplished and versatile musicians are to be found in the jazz genre. Further, jazz enthusiasts are the fortunate beneficiaries of what I believe to be the highest level recording techniques. A perusal of the biographies of so many jazz players reveal studies at such esteemed universities as the Berklee School of Music, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Juilliard School of Jazz Studies and many other renowned institutions. When you combine these formal teachings with apprenticeships with master band leaders, you have a formula for the best in today’s music. Beyond that, these players have now had the opportunity to go well beyond the Bird/Coltrane “thing” of yesterday with the ability to digest the newer influences of Henderson/Hill/Shorter/Dorham/McLean/Murray/Tony Williams and so many others. On top of everything else, even private labels such as Pete Zimmer’s own Trippin’ Records are superbly recorded, engineered and mastered.
This band reminds me of the process for grading used vinyl LPs. The quartet ultimately grades out to VG+, a level only exceeded by EX or Near Mint. Drummer/bandleader Zimmer wrote seven of the ten tracks and shows solid skills in both composing and driving the tunes. Trumpeter Rodriguez (whose brother Robert has been a true find with Roy Haynes’ current band) is a strong player with his own recording, session dates and an impressive string of live dates. It is fascinating to compare the styles of the two pianists – particularly when each takes a turn on alternate takes of the title track. Dodo has released two trio discs under his own name, while Germanson is a member of the Cannonball Legacy Band, in addition to playing with several masterful groups. Bassist Sullivan demonstrates nice technique with some very fine arco work. He gets more solo space here than on the live Roy Haynes Birdland disc previously reviewed and certainly makes the most of it.
Saxophonist Joel Frahm is the standout from my perspective. He was a childhood friend of pianist Brad Mehldau in Connecticut and has released two albums as a leader in addition to a duo release with Mehldau. He plays any tempo extremely well and possesses a nice tone with superb phrasing. He also has an impressive string of band memberships after being selected as a semifinalist in the 1996 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone competition.
The pacing of this disc is excellent. It opens with a jumpin’ number, followed by a slower track, followed by a more upbeat composition, followed by a breakneck track four. It continues is this vein throughout, presenting a bevy of just super solid post-bop offerings. Everyone’s on – things simply sound “right”. It’s also a nice touch to insert a piano trio working of the standard “Darn That Dream”, taken at a leisurely pace (with nice brushwork).
If I had to choose, I’d select the Zimmer-penned “A Whole New You”” as the highlight – the tenor work is gorgeous. But the surrounding tracks are just about as good and create the right setting and flow. Everything about this release is marvelous and it is fully representative of the current (elevated) state of modern jazz. A real nice one to own.
Tracks: Search / Road Taken / Common Man / A Whole New You / Time That Once Was/5 A.M. Blues/Hustlin/ Daytona/Darn That Dream/Common Man (alt. take)
– Birney K. Brown