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Jazz Trail reviews “Force Field” the sophomore album by Sam Dillon

Force Field (PR8196)

Even boasting a very personal diction when discoursing, the young American saxophonist Sam Dillon brings an impressive amount of different influences to his ripe sophomore album, Force Field. Strongly inflected with the hard bop idioms from the 50’s and early 60’s, Dillon, who possesses an outstanding technique, offers a classic-derived repertoire bolstered by creative spins that show how swinging bop and post-bop traditions can be absorbed, transformed, and delivered fresh with a stamp of his own.

Dillon is primarily assisted by a rhythm section that comprises Theo Hill on piano, David Wong on bass, and Anwar Marshall on drums. However, he changes configurations, which range from trio to sextet, with the addition of guest musicians on selected tunes. They are alto saxophonist Andrew Gould, trumpeter Max Darche, and trombonist Michael Dease, who provides one of his colorful tunes to the song list, namely, “Go For The Jugular”. Flaunting a warm horn arrangement in a style reminiscent of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, this straight-ahead piece features all guests as soloists, with Dillon spearheading the sequence with rich Coltrane-isms that gravitate toward the unbeatable fluency of his Blue Train-phase.

Before that, the title track packs a punch with its grooving modal post-bop force and a scrupulous, dancing melody composed of attractive intervals. If the theme statement infuses a bit of the Sonny Rollins’ melodic charm, the rest is purely Coltrane/McCoy stuff, with Hill employing exuberant rhythmic spasms buoyed by opportune left-hand jabs, and Dillon oscillating between effortless roundness and smart obliquity in his lines. This spiritual atmosphere is partly passed to Dillon’s uptempo “Hit It”, whose main statement also incorporates that joyous briskness that characterizes the music of Lee Morgan and John Coltrane. Marshall is called into action here, exhibiting his drumming skills after effusive the solos and before the repositioning of the theme.

Hill switches to Fender Rhodes to bring that post-bop pulse-quickening to Chick Corea’s “Straight Up and Down”, another uptempo piece with a bouncy gait and incisive trumpet lines akin to Woody Shaw and Freddie Hubbard. He continues to explore the famous electric piano in a sentimental rendition of “Marionette”, a discoverable composition by Swedish pianist Lars Jansson, which contrasts with the familiar bebop flow of Parker’s “Dexterity”, here delivered in the classic sax-bass-drums format.

With a relaxing bossa temper, “Shift” is the slowest and perhaps the less interesting tune on the record. Predominantly adhering to 4/4 motions and burning up the miles with characteristic sounds, Force Field is uneven, but still enclosing moments of pure jazz passion worth checking out.


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Josh Lawrence’s fascination with colors comes out on “Contrast”

The young trumpeter Josh Lawrence is making quite a splash on the contemporary scene as a player and composer.  “Contrast” is his second Posi-Tone album within 12 months to feature his Color Theory ensemble. What a fine band!  The rhythm section includes the Curtis Brothers, Zaccai (keyboards) and Luques (bass) plus Anwar Marshall (drums) while the front line has Lawrence paired with alto saxophonist Caleb Curtis (no relation to the Brothers).  Orrin Evans joins the band on piano for several tracks as does trombonist David Gibson.

The album has two distinct sections.  The first four tracks have the bop and hard bop feel of Lawrence’s 2017 “Color Theory“, shorter tunes with melodic heads and fine solos (“Dominant Curve” is a standout cut with its Charlie Parker-type melody and attack). The program changes on track #5, the powerful “In The Black Square.”  Now, the influence is McCoy Tyner and the music he began to make in the early 1970s.  The shifting rhythms (Marshall is on fire here), the pounding piano chords, and the leader’s fiery solo.

The next song, “Gray“, is a handsome piece fueled by the richly melodic lines of Luques Curtis, the active drums and cymbals, and the adventurous work of Lawrence and Caleb Curtis. It opens in a fiery tone with the front line dancing through the melody and then the alto sax rides atop the rhythm section.  Following that, the song slows down, with quiet sax and muted trumpet – Lawrence builds a fascinating solo, rolling his lines around the drums and bass then moving “out” near the end before the sax returns.  Drums and bass reintroduce the opening section, the front line repeat the original melody and the piece romps to its close.  There’s a touch of electronics on the muted trumpet opening of “Brown“, with Lawrence and Caleb Curtis exploring a fine melody.  The power is kicked up a notch on “Agent Orange”, the rubato opening featuring trumpet, saxophone, and trombone.  Gibson takes the first pass through the melody pushed forward by Zaccai Curtis’s powerful piano chords. Note the slight change as the bass and drums fall in to a driving rhythm for the sax solo.  Lawrence has a powerful interaction with the pianist, giving the piece the feel of the classic Miles Davis Quintet music of the mid-1960s.  The music fades with the pianist playing “My Country, Tis of Thee” over quiet cymbal touches.

Orrin Evans on acoustic piano and Zaccai Curtis on Rhodes ride a funky beat at the onset of “Blues On The Bridge.” The opening is reminiscent of Julius Hemphill’s “The Hard Blues” but, when the keyboards kick in, the song moves into Cannonball Adderley style rhythm ‘n’ blues.  The groove opens up for the trumpet solo gets back to its original “greasiness” for Evans’s playful solo.

The program closes with a soft version of Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows in April“, just muted trumpet and piano (Evans again), a lovely tribute to the artist. The version does not stray far from the original ballad, the piano giving the song more weight than Prince’s acoustic guitar and trembling voice.

Contrast” continues Josh Lawrence‘s fascination with colors and illustrates how the trumpeter is expanding his palette.  He is growing as an artist on so many levels, not just as an excellent soloist but as a composer and bandleader.  Grab ahold of this album and get into its grooves – the music is very alive and moving!

Richard Kamins – Step Tempest

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Downbeat tells us about Ed Cherry’s Exhilarating Swing “Soul Tree”


An irrepressibly swinging guitarist who is also given to blues-soaked phrasing, Ed Cherry is in that lineage of classic organ group six-stringers that includes Pat Martino, George Benson, Grant Green and Wes Montgomery. One can even hear strains of Charlie Christian in his soulful solo on a swinging rendition of Kool & The Gang’s “Let The Music Take Your Mind,” which kicks off this winning trio outing featuring underrated organist Kyle Koehler and the wonderfully interactive drummer Anwar Marshall.

The musicians stroll through Jimmy Heath’s “A New Blue” in relaxed fashion, then apply a Latin tinge to Cherry’s buoyant boogaloo, “Rachel’s Step,” both of which showcase Koehler’s brilliant solo contributions.

The Latin flavor returns on an interpretation of Mal Waldron’s “Soul Eyes,” then the trio goes for the all-out burn on an uptempo rendition of Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower,” which has Cherry dipping into his Wes bag for some excellent octaves playing.

Highlights abound on this hand-in-glove organ trio outing. Cherry’s breezy “Little Girl Big Girl” has Koehler manipulating tones at the peak of his exhilarating solo in show-stopping fashion, while the guitarist opens his gently swinging rendition of Horace Silver’s gorgeous “Peace” with a beautiful unaccompanied intro before Marshall underscores with brushes and Koehler supplies velvety comping underneath.

Additionally, the trio delivers a whimsical take on John Coltrane’s “Central Park West” and a swinging rendition of Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way” that gives everyone a solo and surprisingly morphs into a funky, Meters-inspired throwdown near the end. This Soul Tree yields some very tasty fruit indeed.

4 stars ★ ★ ★ ★

Bill Milkowski  –  Downbeat Magazine


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Italian magazine “Tracce Di Jazz” gets rooted in the “Soul Tree” by Ed Cherry

soultree_coverSoul Tree “It is wise to cultivate the tree which bears fruit in our soul”. This maxim of Henry David Thoreau stands in the booklet of “Soul Tree” and packs as best you can the sense of this work that marks the return as leader of the excellent guitarist Ed Cherry Posi-tone label.
The most canonical of the Organ Trio, completed by Kyle Koehler to Hammond and drummer Anwar Marshall, wanders with quiet Paws in vast territories, which include the famous “Central Park West” coltraniano as well as the forgotten “Ode To Angela” by Harold Land, and even songs by Freddie Hubbard, Dave Brubeck, Mal Waldron, a couple of originals hit the spot and the delightful rereading located on the opening track, album/manifesto “Let The Music Take Your Mind” by Kool And The Gang’s repertoire.
The sexagenarian And Cherry does not enjoy some great popularity despite the stunning curriculum including ben 14 years alongside Dizzy Gillespie and presence in engravings consigned to history, so that this “Soul Tree” can be an opportunity to get acquainted with this jazz master’s class has distilled in a personal way the style of George Benson , Pat Martino and, especially, of the beloved Grant Green.
Some sort of atavistic candor, punctuated by reassuring cadences and infused with blues, away thousand miles from intellectual reverberations, illuminates this “Soul Tree” that runs its elegant branches with honesty and naturalness in dialogue “in the tradition”, always relaxed among the guitar of the leader and the Philadelphia organist Kyle Koheler, former rising star worthy of consideration, already distinguished himself alongside Bobby Watson and Jimmy Heat , as shown in the original “Rachel’s Step”, distilled soul jazz with Latin, and even more so in conclusion, liberating “Peace” by Horace Silver, high priest, we believe in blessing, this stylistic scope whose whole job fits ideally.
The smoothness of the episodes make the whole extremely enjoyable disc, and among other things guitar unnecessarily complex or enveloped on themselves, the overall effect that Ed Cherry & Co. reach is to an invigorating breath of fresh air among the branches of the tree of the soul.     – Fabio Castro

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Dusty Groove reviews Ed Cherry’s new one “Soul Tree”


A killer guitar and Hammond session with a really sublime sort of sound – a groove that’s wonderfully free of cliche – and which has an open, spacious quality that few artists can match! Given the instrumentation, the album’s steeped in tradition, but never tries to just rehash an older Prestige Records vibe – and instead guitarist Ed Cherry and organist Kyle Koehler find a way of soaring out in their own spirits – opening up strongly in a bass-less trio that only features the drums of Anwar Marshall to keep things snapping along. The pairing is perfect – on the level of Grant Green with Larry Young, or Pat Martino with Don Patterson – yet very much with its own spirit, too. Cherry’s arrangements are great, too – providing very fresh takes on familiar tunes, alongside his own compositions. Titles include “Central Park West”, “A New Blue”, “Rachel’s Step”, “Ode To Angela”, “Little Sunflower”, “Little Girl Big Girl”, and “Peace”.

Dusty Groove

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Midwest Record – Ed Cherry will drive you to the “Soul Tree”


The vet guitar man that more than earned his spurs in Dizzy Gillespie’s last stand kicks an organ trio into gear on his latest that explores the past with a big ear open to the future. A real swinging groover of a date, all you need to do is sit back and let Cherry and his crew do all the driving–which they do in a big, bold way. Hot stuff that never let’s you down, this is a solid date from start to finish.

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WBGO praises the new release that is “Soul Tree” by Ed Cherry

The first time I heard guitarist Ed Cherry live, he was working with Dizzy Gillespie, one night in a 15 year period with the legendary trumpeter, and part of a career that’s had him also on record or on stage with Ruth Brown, Jimmy McGriff, Oliver Lake, Dakota Staton, Roy Hargrove, Steve Coleman and John Patton.

I remember another night where I found myself in a basement club of a hotel in Cape May, New Jersey, watching Ed Cherry making the walls sweat as much as he was, burning it up, leading an organ trio.

It’s this feel we find when taking in Cherry’s new cd, “Soul Tree”, a tight threesome with organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Anwar Marshall.

The soul’s not far from this tree, as right away we’re foot tappin’ along to a straight ahead version of Kool and the Gang’s “Let The Music Take Your Mind”, just one of the hard swinging highlights this fresh take trio has to offer.

Jimmy Heath’s “A New Blue” is a late night blue light driver, the guitarist’s soulful lines merging effortlessly with the Koehler’s organ chants and Marshall’s rhythms. What we get is a new hue on this encounter.

“Rachel’s Step”, a Cherry original, has a forward paying spirit, the leader’s guitar bringing all the sense memory of those early days listening to James Brown, Booker T and the MG’s and other hip R&B instrumentals of the day.

Mall Waldron’s “Soul Eyes” has an easy, bossa feel, the trio in no hurry to show off their synergy. Let the music show it, and it does. Cherry’s rhythms are a great palette for Koehler’s relaxed organ work. The leader’s lines a comfortable display of guitar mastery.

Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower” gets a kick up as the guitarist and his soul mates find new territory to explore. Damn! This is a tight trio! You’ll miss your exit if this one’s on in the whip.

There’s a moving thoughtful display on John Coltrane’s “Central Park West” and “Little Girl Big Girl”, a Cherry chart for the date.

“Ode To Angela”, by saxophonist Harold Land, finds new land in a relaxed expression, it’s Latin feel sure to make Angela and you feel just right with the world.

With Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way”, The guitarist leads the way, building this one with an infectious energy Brubeck would surely have dug, the leader’s lines finding a new soulful spirit in this classic.

The last branch is a gorgeous interpretation of Horace Silver’s “Peace”, something in this time we could all use more of.

The kid who at age 11 knew who Charlie Parker and Grant Green were, shows by his formidable new recording that we know who he is. Ed Cherry has made a recording he should be proud of, a recording we at WBGO are proud to share with you.

“Soul Tree” comes out February 19th from Posi-tone Records. He’ll celebrate the release at Smalls in NYC on March 30th.


Gary Walker / WBGO