Valery Ponomarev Big Band: Our Father Who Art Blakey : The Centennial – Summit Records 

by | Jan 2, 2020 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Valery Ponomarev Big Band: Our Father Who Art Blakey : The Centennial – Summit Records DCD 758 51:40****

(Valery Ponomarev – leader & trumpet; Victor Jones – drums; Ruslan Khain – bass; Maniko Watanabe – piano; Todd Bashore, Chris Hemingway – alto saxes; Peter Brainin, Steve Carrington – tenor saxes; Anthony Nelson – baritone sax; Stafford Hunter, Alvin Walker, Jimmy O’Connel, Jack Jeffries – trombones; Rick Henly, David Neves, Antoine Drye, Waldon Ricks – trumpets)

Valery Ponomarev is a hard bop trumpeter who plays with both fire and sensitivity and was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers from 1977 into the 1980s. Leading this slashing big band, Ponomarev and his crew dive into a session of compositions that have been associated with Blakey and mostly written by some former band members. They have been brought to life on a release from Summit Records entitled Our Father Who Art Blakey: The Centennial.

The arrangements written by Ponomarev, are tightly knit and are propelled by the exemplary drumming of Victor Jones. Valery has restricted himself to just a couple of trumpet solos on “Tell It Like It Is” and “Caravan”. However his charts have provided the space for other band members such as bassist Ruslan Khain, pianist Mamiko Watanabe, and baritone saxophonist Anthony Nelson among others to develop their brightly layered ideas, behind interesting ensemble backgrounds.

Tenor saxophonist Benny Golson who was part of the array of players who were in the Jazz Messengers wrote “ Are You Real” with Ponomarev’s evocative chart  filled with dexterous unison voicing by the sax section. The band whips through the number with speed and power featuring a layered piano solo from Watanabe, and an extended drum break from Jones.

Two other individuals who made unique contributions to the Blakey band legacy, were composer, arranger, and tenor sax stalwart Wayne Shorter, and the Jazz Messenger’s first pianist and original co-leader Horace Silver. In this session, Shorter’s compositions “ Tell It Like It Is”, “One By One” and “Hammer Head” are heard to good effect with blankets of harmony throughout the compositions.

Silver’s piece, an aptly named “Quick Silver” jumps out from the opening chords with a frothy tone and crisp swing. Drummer Jones delivers a swaggering drum break full of agility and physical force.

Valery Ponomarev has put together first class band that has a solid footing in hard bop jazz.

Tell It Like It Is
Are You Real
One By One
Webb City
Hammer Head
Quick Silver

—Pierre Giroux

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