Temple University Jazz Band – Without You, No Me/Honoring The Legacy Of Jimmy Heath – Terrell Stafford, Conductor – BCM+D Records, 64;39 ****1/2:
Award-winning Temple University Jazz Band pays tribute to Jimmy Heath.
Philadelphia has a vital history in the jazz world. In the shadow of New York, the City of Brotherly Love has often been overlooked for its substantial contributions. Various jazz masters including bebop legend Dizzy Gillespie and modal saxophonist John Coltrane honed their talents there. Among the native-born Philadelphia jazz musicians are McCoy Tyner, Bennie Golson, Shirley Scott, Lee Morgan and Jimmy Heath. Others include Ethel Waters, Grover Washington Jr., Philly Joe Jones, Pat Martino, Nathan East and The Roots. The “jazz corridor” on Ridge Avenue in North Philadelphia was a vibrant Mecca for jazz artists.
Under the direction of trumpeter Terell Stafford, the Temple University Jazz Band (located in the heart of North Philadelphia on Broad Street), won first place at the inaugural Jack Rudin Jazz Championship, held at Lincoln Center in NYC. Appropriately, the new release, Without You, No Me pays homage to Philadelphia’s own Jimmy Heath. Joey DeFrancesco and Christian McBride appear as special guests on this project. Each track has a contextual reference to Heath, Philadelphia or saxophone music. The opening cut, “Passing Of The Torch” (composed by Todd Bashore) comes out of the gate strong with a meticulously arranged, layered big band approach. As the rhythm section establishes bop swing, there are excellent solos on tenor saxophone, trombone, trombone, piano, double bass, guitar and drums. When the full ensemble joins in, it is up tempo bliss. “Without You, No Me” is another bebop classic, originally done by Dizzy Gillespie. Here, there are exotic motifs and subtle Latin-tinged tempos that produce transitional medium-swing cadences and sweeping resonance. The full band executes deft counterpoint to trumpet, saxophone and piano. It has a cinematic feel, and interesting key modulation. Local sax player, Bootsie Barnes (also recently deceased) and his laid-back subtlety is articulated by agile ensemble play, including deft moments of muscular punctuation. Organist Shirley Scott gets paid her respects on the eternal standard. “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone”. This version is flashier than the usual covers, and vocalist Danielle Dougherty infuses the song with heartfelt passion.
The band is performing at a high level, and then that gets ratcheted up by none other than Joey DeFrancesco. After a horn/reed intro, DeFrancesco breaks out the blues riffs on “In That Order”. His extended solo is percolating and the band fills in to add texture. There are some adroit drum fills. It is among the highlights of this album. On Jimmy Heath’s “Voice Of The Saxophone”, a smoky tenor (with some vibrato) distills the reticent harmony of this ballad with ethereal counterpoint. As with most of the arrangements, the charts are muscular, but judicious. On “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love”, Christian McBride utilizes his double bass like a lead instrument. His instrumental acuity and passion is on full display. Creating a soulful, relaxed atmosphere, “Wise Old Owl” varies tempo and instrumentation to honor the late Hall Of Fame basketball coach, John Chaney. At the 4:03 mark there is a rhythm uptick that is catchy, before a hushed ending. A second tune associated with Shirley Scott (“The Blues Ain’t Nothing But Some Pain”) is classic blues executed with slow burning intensity. The last number is a worthy finale to this tribute album. Juan Tozi’s 1941 composition “Perdido” was originally recorded by Duke Ellington. In addition to several band members soloing, DeFrancesco is magnetic with a gliding run that leads into a compelling McBride double bass solo. The fuller sound is the epitome of big band jazz.
Without You, No Me by the Temple University Jazz Band is a rewarding musical experience.
Passing Of The Torch; Without You, No Me; Bootsie; Please Don’t Talk About Me; In That Order (featuring Joey DeFrancesco); Voice Of The Saxophone; I Can’t Give You Anything But Love (featuring Christian McBride); The Wise Old Owl (for John Chaney); The Blues Ain’t Nothin’ (But Some Pain); Perdido (featuring Joey DeFrancesco & Christian McBride).
For more information and sound tracks, please visit Temple University website.
Temple University Jazz Band
Terrell Stafford – conductor; featuring special guest stars Christian McBride – double bass; Joey DeFrancesco – organ; Anthony Aldissi – piano; Michael Raymond – guitar; Nathan Pence – bass; Maria Marmarou – drums; Patrick Hill – alto I; Adam Abrams – alto II; Dylan Band – tenor I; Ross Gerberich – tenor II; Gabe Preston – baritone; Andrew Sedlacsik – trombone I; Bill Saurman – trombone II; David Chodor – trombone III; Omeed Nyman – bass; Fareed Simpson-Hankins – trumpet I; John Meko – trumpet II; John Brunozzi – trumpet III; Banks Sapner – trumpet IV; Robby Cruz – trumpet V; Danielle Dougherty – vocals