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4 star review from AAJ for the new one “Fast Friends” by Doug Webb

Fast Friends (PR8187)

There is nothing as soul cleansing as bebop. Period. When you couple the music with the sunshine of Los Angeles (OK, when the smog has cleared) there is a medicinal, tonic effect to be had. Enter L.A. session saxophonist Doug Webb, a contributor to film and television, and member of big bands led by Bill Holman, Doc Severinsen, and Don Menza. Fast Friends is his eighth release for Positone. His previous disc, Bright Side (2016) featured trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, guitarist Ed Cherry and organist Brian Charette. Before that there were sessions with saxophonists Walt Weiskopf and Joel Frahm, and Stanley Clarke, Larry Goldings, and Rudy Royston, to name just a few. The above names attest to the attraction Webb’s sound and sessions produce.

Since this recording emanates from California—Pasadena, to be exact—you might suppose the traditional West Coast Coolness. That’s not what you get. Think Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Buddy Collette, and Frank Morgan, all under the influence of Charlie Parker‘s 1947 California road trip as a reference for Webb’s music. The saxophonist power-washes several standards and some original music with the help of trombonist Michael Dease, pianist Mitchel Forman, bassist Chris Colangelo and legendary drummer Roy McCurdy.

Webb’s “Last Train To Georgia,” with flavors of “Sweet Georgia Brown,” opens the disc with Webb and Dease interweaving horns before each player, including Forman, deliver condensed yet quicksilver solos. The music shows great attention to detail, with fastidious swing and economical solos throughout. Hank Mobley‘s “High Groove, Low Feedback,” from his early Blue Note recordings, gets the royal treatment with Webb soloing cucumber cool, that is, hot. Same for Dizzy Gillespie‘s warhorse “A Night In Tunisia” delivered briskly, and with all due respect. Webb though, isn’t (as they say) just another pretty (blowing) face. He canoodles the Jule Styne composition “The Things We Did Last Summer,” prompting a memory of Sammy Cahn’s lyrics with help from Forman. The two standout tracks here are Charlie Parker’s “Ah-Leu-Cha,” elegantly arranged as a dance between saxophone and trombone, and “Nopoló,” a big-shoulders barn-burning blues that each member digs into with both hands and feet.

Mark Corroto – All About Jazz

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Why the World Needs More Folks Like David Gibson

If you follow trombonist David Gibson on Facebook, or are FB “friends” with him, you’re likely familiar with some of his posts that cover a whole host of topics, from the power of music, to what it means to be a professional, how to act on a gig, how to communicate with people you might not agree with, etc. In these posts he is always positive, insightful, and generally optimistic.

Now I tend to be pretty cynical and dark, and sometimes when I see one of his posts like this, especially if it’s early in the morning, I might let my “not only is the glass half empty, the glass is cracked” outlook get the best of me and start to write it off. But then I invariably find the grown-up part of my brain saying to me “dude, get over yourself, he’s right.” And then I think about what he said for a bit and move on with my day, often having found what he’s said to have some kind of resonance or significance with things I often think about or experience.

I cannot say I know Gibson, I’ve never seen him play, and I only know his music from his records. But based on my limited interaction with him online and knowing his music, I can say that the world needs more musicians, and people, like him. This is clearly evident on his newest album on Posi-tone: Inner Agent. It, along with his previous albums, exudes all the qualities that I’ve come to respect about him. It’s honest, positive, straightforward, swinging, hip (I mean just look at his fashion sense—I’m super envious of his suit collection), and there’s no b.s. or posturing. And it’s clear from the music that his bandmates—trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, pianist Theo Hill, bassist Alexander Claffy, and drummer Kush Abadey—appreciate and share these qualities as well. Simply put, Inner Agent is one of the finest straight ahead albums of the year and is as good as contemporary hard bop gets.

mindset2The album charges right out of the gate with the uptempo title track. Aside from Gibson and Hendrix’s burning solos, one of the most impressive aspects of the performance is the hookup between Hill and Abadey, who play off each behind the solos, pushing the soloists forward while filling gaps with jabs, fills, and well-placed accents. Hearing Gibson borrow a figure from one of Hill’s comped lines during his solo shows that these guys are locked in. And it would be a mistake to overlook Claffy, whose unwavering walking bass holds everything together. “I Wish I Knew” is so good, so soulful, and so full of optimism that it’s just about enough to restore my faith in humanity. The tune’s melody and easy swing could be straight out of a classic 50s or 60s Blue Note album. Gibson’s solo exudes a declarative joyfulness, Hendrix turns the heat up a notch with a few bluesy choruses, while Hill takes a direct and unadorned approach, using a series of single note lines. The quintet expands to a septet on “The Scythe” with the addition of tenor saxophonist Doug Webb and alto saxophonist Caleb Curtis. The four-horn front line adds power to Gibson’s tune, which features an angular bridge that ratchets up the tension. Webb wastes no time working up a lather, while Curtis and Gibson take a more measured approach. The tune is so well-suited for an open-ended blowing session I wish it had been twice as long to give the soloists more time to stretch out. “Gravy” is a medium, sly funk—it’s as if the band is in on a big secret, but we’re not quite hip enough to know what’s up.

Like his last album entitled Boom!, Inner Agent closes with a cover of a pop tune. Whereas the former ended with Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” he finishes the latter album off with George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.” I admit that when I first saw that each of those were on the albums my inner cynic took hold and almost cringed. But then I thought “wait, ok, change the world, ok, things are pretty messed up, the world could use some changing.” And with “Here Comes the Sun”: “oh man, I’ve heard some bad Beatles covers, I hope this isn’t lame.” [*wrong, hits reset button*] “wait, this is hip, ok, ‘here comes the sun…it’s alright,’ we could use some sun and optimism and positivity.”

Perhaps it’s fitting that I’m finishing this review on the eve of the 2016 presidential election, which in all its ugliness, drama, immaturity, and divisiveness has made it painstakingly clear that for a great number of Americans, cynicism and exploiting people’s fears and base emotions remain effective tools for achieving one’s goals, whether they be profit, ratings, clicks, fame, or power. By listening to Inner Agent and following him online, David Gibson reminds me that music has the power to uplift and to share positive energy with all who encounter it, thereby helping to shed our cynicism. If only we’d listen.

Chris Robinson’s Music & Culture Blog

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All About Jazz likes what it hears on “Bright Side” by Doug Webb

mindset2From one perspective, Doug Webb‘s Bright Side is basically twelve tracks clothed in very recognizable forms —a few varieties of soul-jazz, a couple of heartfelt ballads, a taut bossa nova, and an array of middling and up tempo straight- ahead swingers. Although the material is thoroughly enjoyable, it’s tempting to succumb to a nagging notion that its all been done countless times before, and then simply move on to a record by yet another brave soul planting his/her flag in the jazz tradition. Fortunately, what enables Bright Side to add up to something more than a competent, professionally executed jazz record, is a slew of highlights, bright moments, and outright cool stuff that populates every track.

A quintet consisting of Webb’s tenor sax, trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, guitarist Ed Cherry, organist Brian Charette, and drummer Steve Fidyk (all of whom have led dates for the Posi-Tone Records label) operates like a well-oiled machine. Listening to how nicely all of the parts fit together, and the fact that you can easily discern each player’s contribution, are important facets of the disc’s appeal. For instance, Cherry’s work on the heads and his comping behind individual soloists are delivered in subtle yet decisive ways that add rich, distinctive flavors—while taking up a minimum amount of space. The same can be said about Charette, whose primary concern is holding down the band’s bottom, but, with due cause, asserts himself by means of vivid chords. Fully capable of inhabiting any role the music requires, Fidyk often jolts the band with thickset snare accents, frequently plays fluid, inconspicuous jazz time, and always executes smart, stimulating fills regardless of the type of groove.

Webb’s voice as an improviser possesses real character regardless of the kind of song he’s playing. Check out the R & B influenced “Society Al” for the way in which he gets down by himself at the onset of the track, pausing and briefly falling silent amidst a fair amount honking and shouting. Later on during his solo over the band’s uncluttered funk, Webb executes notey runs, brief, tantalizing hesitations, quick, meaningful digressions, as well as broad, weighty tones—and makes all of them sound like they belong in close proximity to one another. Magnarelli’s solos—particularly on “Steak Sauce,” “Slo Mo,” and “Lunar”— contain a fair measure of brassy power mixed with a kind of subdued, floating quality that feels emotionally vulnerable. Cherry possesses a unique, understated style, doling out notes with a soulful circumspection. His all-too-brief intro to “One For Hank” is the epitome of sparse perfection, so simple that it’s easy to take it for granted. The guitarist’s gift for making improvised lines sound both ephemeral and sturdy is also apparent throughout the gentle “Bahia,” where every single note and chord breathes easy and carries an almost imperceptible weight.

In the end, Webb and company make it simple to enjoy the music instead of indulging in critical hair splitting or fretting about stylistic proclivities and influences.

David A. Orthmann – All About Jazz

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Musicalmemoirs’s likes the no nonsense straight ahead jazz from David Gibson

mindset2I have to begin this review by complimenting Positone Records. Every CD this company has sent to me reflects a high quality of jazz artists. It’s been a joy listening to each and every one of them. David Gibson is no exception to this course of excellence. “Inner Agent”, the title tune, is an original composition by Gibson and sets the mood for this entire project. It’s Straight Ahead, no nonsense jazz, just the way this reviewer likes it. Using a quartet of horns to thicken the musical brew, Gibson graciously shares his stage with a group of seasoned musicians. He lets each one solo and sparkle like jazzy jewels. Hendrix is compelling on trumpet, drawing the listener in with big bold tones and dynamic technique. Doug Webb always brings tenor madness to the studio, playing from the heart and Caleb Curtis on alto is a saxophone force to be enjoyed and celebrated. This is my first time hearing Theo Hill on piano and he’s impressive, innovative and skilled, knowing just how to comp and support the artist, then stretching out with solos that make you pay attention. Abadey on drums is powerful and relentless, giving this band the push and rhythmic inspiration they need to spiral up and over his percussive chops. However, it is Gibson’s trombone voice that bathes in the glow of a singular spotlight. They say that trombone is the closest instrument to human vocals and Gibson sings with emotional dexterity and polished technique. He’s an accomplished composer as well as a musician and offers four original tunes on this project. One is “The Scythe”, a high-powered, Be Bop tune that burns with fiery energy with Gibson’s solo floating solidly atop the rhythm section. You can hear Abadey’s drums throughout, egging the band on like a matador’s cape in front of an angry bull. I love the mix on this recording. Bassist, Alexander Claffy, has written “AJ”, a moderate tempo ballad that allows Gibson to set the melodic theme along with his horn section, sometimes harmonically but mostly in unison. If I were to have any criticism, it would be that Gibson’s improvisational solos are way too short. Gibson tackles two compositions by my Detroit home-boy, trombonist Curtis Fuller; “The Court” and “Sweetness”, where he shows admirable technique and self-expression. This is an album of music to be treasured in any collection. Perhaps Curtis Fuller said it best when he gave Gibson this dynamic compliment:

“Out of all the young players I hear in the music today, David is one of very few who speaks the language of jazz.”


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Drummer/Composer Steve Fidyk is Buoyed by “Allied Forces” on New Posi-Tone Release

mindset2One realizes just how special Allied Forces (Posi-Tone Records) by drummer/composer/bandleader Steve Fidyk is about halfway through the Monk opener, “Evidence.”

This is one swinging quintet dealing with Monk’s myriad changes and convoluted thought processes in a shiny new irresistible way. It has that good new-car smell about it that hooks you right in. And it’s like that for the duration, partly because guitarist Shawn Purcell and tenor saxist Doug Webb make the absolute most of their opportunity here.

His own “Good Times” switches from common-time (4/4) to a waltz (3/4) mid-song and it’s in that split second of a changed time signature where, again, you’re hooked right in to Fidyk’s oh-so-hip wavelength. Marc Free’s production is such that one can hear every instrument, the percussion discussions, the high-flying solos where even under the epicenter of a tantalizing solo, some mighty rumbling is going on.

Fidyk has worked the DC area for 25 years. He studied under the legendary Joe Morello [1928-2001]. As part of numerous big-bands (check out the “Army Blues Tribute To Buddy Rich” clip below), he’s played with The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon Big Band and numerous orchestras. He’s influenced by the drum work of Billy Higgins [1936-2001] on such seminal recordings as Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” and Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance.” His own “Food Court Drifter” is a “blues in boogaloo style,” according to the drummer in the liner notes. It will make you move as will “Doin’ The Shake.”

Charlie Parker’s 1946 “Moose The Mooche” has Fidyk emulating another of his heroes, Mel Lewis [1929-1990] before the band gets lyrical, loose and romantic on “Portrait of Tamela,” an original for Fidyk’s wife of 25 years. Here, the suave tone of alto sax man Joseph Henson comes to the fore. “High Five” is Fidyk’s update of Paul Desmond’s 1959 “Take Five” that the Dave Brubeck Quartet made into the biggest-selling jazz single of all-time in 1961. “In My Room” is the Beach Boys ballad that Brian Wilson wrote in 1963 that’s been universally hailed as one of the greatest songs of the rock era. It all ends with a drums/organ duet with Brian Charette (whose has his own terrific new CD out, Once & Future, on the same label) for “Shiny Stockings,” inspired by the Elvin Jones/Larry Young moment on “Monk’s Dream” from Unity in 1965

Mike Greenblatt –

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Jazz spans Continents and Cultures on Steve Fidyk’s new release

mindset2This record company, Posi-tone Records, seems to have a group of musicians who are comrades and they make it a point to support each other by recording in concert and exchanging leaders. Just last month, I reviewed Doug Webb’s CD with most of these same players. However, on this recording, it’s the drummer who is featured as ‘leader.’ Monk’s composition, “Evidence” is a good way to begin any project. All those short, snappy, staccato notes that spell out the melody in that uniquely, creative way, are great for a drummer to be-bop along with and Fidyk takes full advantage of this opportunity. On Fidyk’s original tune, “Good Turns” he approaches the percussion support with a flurry of cymbal crashes and high energy that pulsates the song straight-ahead, rolling it forward like a freight train at top speed. Fidyk turns out to be a competent composer. “Gaffe” is another one of his originals and is a lesson in straight-ahead drum chops that uses an awesome horn section to set-up the melody. Then, flying like a bat out of cave on fire, Fidyk pushes this wonderful group of musicians to their limits. The unusual breaks and harmonics remind me of Thelonius Monk’s composer skills. Just when I thought I was going to get all straight-ahead jazz and bebop, Fidyk flicked the switch on “Doin’ the Shake” where he shows he’s equipped to play funk with the best of them. This song gives Purcell a chance to showcase excellent guitar skills and by the way, Purcell wrote this piece. On “Moose the Mooche” the excitement peaks and the listener gets to enjoy Charette’s amazing talents on the organ. I had to play this one twice and both times it left me breathless. Fidyk obviously enjoys playing up-tempo, with challenging breaks and a band that brings the best of what they have to the session. Both horn players, Henson & Webb, perform unforgettable solos throughout, strutting their improvisational talents like finely tailored Italian suits. They’re sharp, trendy and play to impress.

Fidyk comes from a musical family. His father, John Fidyk, who played tenor saxophone in several East Pennsylvania groups, proudly took his eight-year old son (Steve) to gigs and had him sit-in as a substitute drummer when only a mere child. Both parents recognized their son’s musical talents early on. Consequently, they encouraged little Steve to hone his percussive skills. He majored in Music Education at Wilkes University and played drums in several big bands. To date he has performed on over 100 recordings and has an extensive discography. This CD will be a shining star to add to his growing constellation.

Dee Dee McNeil – Musical Memoirs Blog

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JazzdaGama is Keeping Summer Hot with 4 new Posi-Tone releases


The seamless, elastic world of music must surely be engaging to body and soul as if it were charting sonic events in the hot and heady days of a seemingly parallel universe. The music of a clutch of artists playing music intoxicated with the gaiety and passion for life in chance encounters and never-ending emotional thrills. These four discs lay out the sustaining power of trombone and saxophone, bass and drums with elegance and ease. In ensemble and solo sojourns the musicians on each of the discs create lines that flow, charm and interact in an entirely natural and unaffected manner. Every one of these Posi-Tone releases fulfils the promise to entertain and keep listeners in a constant of wonder.

mindset2David Gibson is a serious ‘student’ of his chosen instrument: the trombone. Not only does his virtuosity enable the songs on Inner Agent to spin out and display passages with dazzling facility but the emotional depth of his playing enables him to ‘sing’ with uncanny authority. More than anything, however, this recording follows in the great tradition of the trombone, paying luminous homage to the great Curtis Fuller with two tunes – ‘The Court’ and ‘Sweetness’. Gibson also takes his reverential manner many steps further with beguiling compositions of his own. In the magnificent workings of ‘The Scythe’, for instance, his music and his playing combines accuracy and clarity with a warm ambience and almost tangible texture. The other players in the ensemble also possess a remarkable aptitude for agility in their loping, leaping and mutable soli. Together, Gibson and his cohort, especially trumpeter Freddie Hendrix – whose musical character is cast as a doppelgänger for the trombonist’s own – have succeeded in leaving us with a performance of exceptional beauty.

mindset2Doug Webb’s most emotional call to look on the Bright Side is a most appropriate offering in these ‘times of trouble’. In this respect, Julie Styne’s feature, ‘Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry’ becomes the disc’s clarion call to listeners in search of peace. But let it be suggested that the saxophonist’s disc in question is an endless stream of moping about current events and an apocalyptic sermon about the state of the art, it has to be said that Webb is not one to weep and moan about it. Rather he is more apt to press on and serve up such delicacies as ‘Steak Sauce’ and ‘Funky Medina’. Making an ebullient record takes not only a sense of fun, but elegant simplicity, given to joyous celebration of all things musical. It also shows Webb to possess a more theatrically developed virtuosity necessary for a performance that highlights his compelling works. More rewarding on the ensemble front, both structurally and emotionally is Webb’s prominent interaction with musical partners who articulate the loose-limbed elegance of the music with impressive timbral variety.

brendlerApart from the fact that Duke Ellington did not get credit for ‘Angelica’ in bassist Peter Brendler’s Message In Motion everything else about the album suggests the impulse to adorn musical lines with an intricacy that goes well beyond craftsmanship. It is matter of imbuing musical design with depth of thought and emotion melded in with clarity and reason. Peter Brendler’s work has shown this in spades throughout his illustrious career as a first-call bassist as well as a composer. His work with pianist Frank Kimbrough and drummer Barry Altschul is the stuff that legends are made of. In only his second album as leader, Brendler not only commands the respect of musical luminaries such as saxophonist Rich Perry and guitar alchemist Ben Monder, but also trumpeter Peter Evans and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza. ‘Stunts And Twists’ helps to unveil Brendler’s compositional skills, suggesting a wonderful sense of adventure about his narratives. His introduction to Elliott Smith’s ‘Easy Way Out’ is quite breathtaking as is Ben Monder’s playing that follows immediately after, as it makes way for Brendler to re-enter with melodic lines of his own. Alice Coltrane’s ‘Ptah The El Daoud’ features an insane, dysfunctional and brilliant solo by Peter Evans, who unleashes his genius once again on ‘Very Light And Very Sweet. A truly memorable album.

mindset2If it were time to draw up a list of the finest performances of 2016, then Steve Fidyk’s Allied Forces would feature very prominently on it. For one thing, this is not the usual organ/guitar/drum recording but an intelligent spinoff that features an infinitely larger and fascinating tonal colour palette with the addition of an alto and a tenor saxophone. The recording also shows the drummer/leader, Fidyk to not only possess formidable artistic gifts as a percussion colourist, but also a drummer of immense melodic capability. Fidyk’s musicianship also shows to be a bold instrumentalist and gifted writer. These complementary aspects paint a portrait of a musician with the facility to transform and illuminate in a myriad styles. It helps to have a sensibility rooted in, arguably, the last, and most significant idiom in Jazz – bebop. The group’s performance of Charlie Parker’s ingenious ‘Moose The Mooche’ and Thelonious Monk’s iconic ‘Evidence’ gets behind the irrepressible rhythmic dynamic of the music that Parker and Monk helped to create with Kenny Clarke and Dizzy Gillespie. But Fidyk is also a chameleonic musician. Consider the manner in which he whips up a funky storm on ‘Doin’ The Shake’. And the, of course, there’s the rousing rendition of Frank Foster’s ‘Shiny Stockings’ a marvellous bookend to ‘Evidence’, which gets things started. An album to die for.

Raul da Gama – JazzdaGama

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Dusty Groove appreciates the interplay on “Allied Forces” by Steve Fidyk

mindset2Drummer Steve Fidyk’s the leader here, and his talents really give the album a sharp sort of crackle – but we especially love the record’s interplay between the mighty Hammond talents of Brian Charette, the tenor of Doug Webb, and alto of Joseph Henson! The trio come together without any bassist at the bottom – just Charette’s work on the organ to groove things up – but they also get some great help from guitarist Shawn Purcell, who laces things together nicely over Fidyk’s crackling drums – leaving the two horns and keys to create these magical criss-crossing lines of sound!

Titles include the Fidyk originals “Gaffe”, “Good Turns”, “Food Court Drifter”, “Portrait Of Tamela”, “High Five”, and “One For TJ” – plus a sweet take on the Beach Boys’ “In My Room”.

Dusty Groove

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WBGO reviews the new one by Steve Fidyk “Allied Forces”

mindset2Drummer Steve Fidyk had some of his first rhythm tips from legendary Dave Brubeck drummer  Joe Morello. Fidyk studied hard, practicing non-stop, degrees at Wilkes College and a Masters at University of Maryland, a work ethic that rewarded with tours with the NY Voices and Woody Herman Orchestra. Fidyk’s recordings include those with the U.S. Army Blues Jazz Band, and efforts with Posi-tone label mates saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, and organist Brian Charette, who returns the favor on Steve’s new cd, “Allied Forces”, alongside alto saxophonist Joseph Henson, tenor saxophonist Doug Webb and guitarist Shawn Purcell.

The musical ingenuity found here has a fun time with Monk, Bird, Frank Foster, EVEN Brian Wilson.

The place also gets sweatin’ with Fidyk originals “Good Turns” and “Food Court Drifter”, a tribute to the way Billy Higgins grooved along with trumpeter Lee Morgan. Guitarist Purcell contributes a funkified “Doin’ The Shake”.

Be sure to check out what this allied force does with “Moose The Mooche”, Monk’s “Evidence” and Brian Wilson’s “In My Room”.

Gary Walker – Morning Jazz WBGO