November 2, 2020 All day
October 29, 2020 @ 12:00 am – 11:59 pm PDT
October 29, 2020 All day
October 11, 2020 @ 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm UTC-7
October 5, 2020 @ 8:00 pm – 11:30 pm UTC-7
Wheelhouse is Tom Tallitsch’s fifth outing for Posi-Tone Records (eight overall) from one of the most consistently solid performers in that label’s stable of quality jazz performers. Though this 2018 release again sees the tenor sax master heading up a roster who have led their own notable dates for the label, but this one pairs Tallitsch with a trumpeter for the first time on a Tallitsch record, in the form of the talented Josh Lawrence. Also on board is Jon Davis (piano), Peter Brendler (bass) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums).
Combine the proven quintet format with Tallitsch’s penchant for penning memorable post-bop and hard bop tunes in the classic style, and Wheelhouse is akin to Blue Note pulling out a vintage mid-sixties session from the vault performed by label heroes Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock and the like. Even the spotless, analog-warm production by Marc Free evokes Rudy Van Gelder.
Though Tallitsch has been known to throw out an offbeat cover or two in the past, he sticks to all-originals this go around. “Wheelhouse” features a tale of two rhythm patterns, but when it settles into a swing mindset, Tallitsch displays that ingratiating, soulful tenor in full . Not one to leave a wealth of talent idle, Davis, Lawrence and Sperrazza get their own savory features as well. “Schlep City” is a blues-based shuffle where Lawrence’s trumpet spotlight more than recalls Lee Morgan. Sperrazza’s dynamic rhythm-ing drives “Red Eye” along as Tallitsch and Lawrence combine for funky lead lines prior to them taking turns on thoughtful solos.
Brendler’s bass pattern kicks off the slow swinging “Paulus Hook,” which has a melody imbued with melancholy nicely captured by Tallitsch’s aside. “One For Jonny” is a tender ballad, a choice opportunity for Lawrence to show off a lavish affecting tone. He later fills in some harmony behind the leader’s own heartfelt solo. To top it all off, the swaying soul-jazz of “Gas Station Hot Dog” hearkens back to the RnB-soaked numbers once championed by Morgan and Lou Donaldson, and Davis’ crisp lines here as they are everywhere else are delightful throwback to when jazz piano was played with a lot of soulfulness.
Tom Tallitsch’s Wheelhouse is all in a day’s work for this underappreciated tenor saxman, who once again demonstrates the continued vitality of the hard bop form. If that kind of jazz is in your wheelhouse, then this album is sure to be as well.
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!
The independent label Posi Tone Records has the mantra “…to provide the highest quality recordings of the most relevant musicians on today’s jazz scene.” Co-owners producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O’Toole have been doing just that since 1994. It seems 2018 will be no different. Free assembled his New Faces group from musician members of the Posi Tone stable of artists and produced a very satisfying new album aptly titled Straight Forward which will be released on January 12, 2018.
It’s a group of like-minded, young musicians who, based on this successful outing, have a long future together if they want it. The group includes Josh Lawrence’s trumpet, Roxy Coss’ saxophone, the gossamer touch of vibraphonist Behn Gillece and the young pianist Theo Hill with the rhythm section of Peter Brendler on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza on drums.
The group offers a tight, well executed set of music; compositions that were culled partially from the Posi-Tone archives, but also includes two original compositions by trumpeter Lawrence and three by vibraphonist Gillece. There is one Herbie Hancock composition, “King Cobra,” that is particularly representative of the 50’s and 60’s Blue Note era, a recording model that Posi-Tone has clearly fashioned their own musical aspirations after.
The set starts out with a Jon Davis swinger titled “Happy Juice.” Right away you perceive a chorus of instruments-trumpet, piano, saxophone and vibes-that have acquired the ability to meld their individual voices into a complimentary, unified sound that delights the ears. Trumpeter Lawrence has a clear easy flow to his playing. Coss’s saxophone tone is mellow and lustrous.Pianist Hill is rock steady throughout, but it is Gillece’s tubular vibe sound that subtly dominates here, driving the tune forward as the rhythm section of Brendler and Sperrazza provide the rhythmic base.
What I like about this group is that they relish ensemble playing over lengthy individual solos. The haunting “Delilah Was A libra” is opened with a penetrating lead in by Gillece. Hill and Coss offer two short but poignant solos before Lawrence enters with a brief but potent trumpet statement. It’s the group speak that you come away admiring here.
On Brian Charette’s jaunty “West Village” the front line states the melody in unison, before Josh Lawrence’s muted trumpet solo raises the heat. A brief but imaginative solo by Coss leads to Gillece’s darting vibes play. The notes seem to take flight off his mallets like wood nymphs alit in a forest. This song was originally played by an organ trio, but here the group utilizes the additional instrumentation to great effect as Brendler and Sperrazza drive the beat.
The Herbie Hancock classic, “King Cobra,” is played by a tight front line stating the serpentine melody in unison, with a sound reminiscent of the old Blue Note magic. Pianist Hill’s repeated chord lines sets the time throughout. Saxophonist Coss’s tone is buttery soft, uncluttered and warm and Hill plays nicely off her changes of direction. Lawrence’s trumpet solo is well paced and understated. The music captures much of the electricity of the original recording.
The album continues with bright “I’m Here” which offers solos by Lawrence, Hill, Coss and Gillece respectively. The first of Gilcee’s three compositions on the album is up next with “Down the Pike,” a medium tempo swinger that offers some clever changes. Josh Lawrence’s’ driving blues, “Hush Puppy” keeps the proceedings moving with some Tyner-esque-like playing by Hill and a pulsing beat by Brendler. Lawrence’s muted trumpet, Coss’s mellow horn and Gillece’s vibes all add to the mix as Sperazza dazzles on traps.
Perhaps my favorite cut on the album is “Vortex,” a circular composition that features some of Coss’s most evocatively sensitive playing and spurs the vibraphonist/composer Gillece into some of his most exploratory adventures on the album. This one is bound to become a classic.
The music continues with trumpeter Lawrence offering a Latin inspired composition titled “Fredreico.” Sperrazza and Brendler hold down the Latin groove admirably.
“Follow Suit” is another Gillece composition that was clearly influenced by those sterling Blue Note years. The vibraphonist double-times his playing here as Brendler and Sperrazza maintain the torrid pace. Lawrence and Coss both offer fiery solos and Hill’s piano solo is frenetic.
The set closes with the easy, feel-good gospel-influenced Jared Gold composition “Preaching.”
Not sure if New Faces was intended as a one off to start the year, but with such an auspicious first album, perhaps New Faces is destined to become a regular Posi Tone featured group.