Joe Magnarelli: Three on Two (Posi-Tone). A gentle hard bop album is always welcome on my end. I love Joe’s fleshy, round trumpet tones, which express pure love for the instrument. Here, with Steve Davis (tb), Mike Dirubbo (as), Brian Charette (org) and Rudy Royston (d), “Mags” plays even more beautifully than usual on his own title track, Davis’s Easy and Coltrane’s Central Park West. Once again, Joe proves that it’s not how many notes you play or how hot you blow but whether your heart is along for the ride.
Last year trumpet ace Joe Magnarelli put forth his first album under the Posi-Tone flag, but this was hardly the first time around the block for this respected veteran sideman and bandleader.Three On Two, out earlier this month, is his second for the label and also marks twenty years of leading his own dates.
As the title suggests, it’s a three horn/two-part rhythm section setup, but a little bit different than what you might think it’d be. Once again, the eminent Steve Davis is by Magnarelli’s side on trombone and Mike DiRubbo joins the two on alto sax. Rudy Royston is on drums and instead of bass, Brian Charette completes the quintet on organ. His handling of both the keyboard and the bottom (via bass pedals) chores effectively expands the ensemble to a sextet and few are better qualified to simultaneously lock down the low end and mix it up with a large front line of crackerjack horn players than Charette.
And in spite of this being a straight-ahead blowing affair in the finest Posi-Tone tradition, there’s quite of bit of mixing it up, starting with the title tune, with shifty rhythms and maximal, articulate trumpet playing by the leader. DiRubbo keeps the good vibe going and Charette put a soul-leaden cap on the solos run. Straightforward swingers abound on this collection, too, like the crisp, uptempo Coltrane number “26-2,” which features DiRubbo’s lively sax and some seriously sizzling outpouring of notes from Magnarelli. The guys show they can play it cool, too, on another Trane tune, “Central Park West,” where Magnarelli lays his soul bare and delivers a pretty solo on flugelhorn.
There’s even some fresh funk on this record: Magnarelli’s “NYC-J-Funk” gets down with a sly mixture of contemporary, almost hip-hop beats (led by Royston) and the soulful genius of Art Blakey’s Messengers; here, Charette syncopates his organ and bass pedal lines with easy equanimity.
The way Joe Magnarelli’s band members are pitted against — and with — each other through a solid blend of originals and covers makes Three On Two a gratifying way to experience mainstream jazz. Just like Magnarelli’s last release.
Joe Magnarelli – Three on Two – Posi-Tone Records – PR8142 – 55:42
Joe Magnarelli has been on our radar screen for some time. This is his 4th CD release we’ve covered since 2011. Beginning with his “with strings” CD in 2011, and following up with a live Smalls session in 2013 (with the late pianist Mulgrew Miller), Joe then signed with Posi-Tone for last year’s “Lookin’ Up”.
Joe is back with trombonist, Steve Davis, for another standout session. Posi-Tone has enhanced the hard bop front line with altoist, Mike DiRubbo, and added organist Brian Charette to add more “grease” to the mix. Drummer Rudy Royston is a spot-on choice to give the proceedings a true “Blue Note type” authenticity.
The song list is a winning mix of four Magnarelli originals, plus tracks from DiRubbo and Davis, as well as two from Coltrane, and “Clockwise” from Cedar Walton. A Debussy composition (updated in 1938 into a popular song by Larry Clinton) is added to make sure we know that Joe is a man for all seasons…
Right out of the box, the horns blend sweetly on the title track. Charette lets us know quickly that he’s there, and then Joe steps up to blow. His tone is warm, round, and burnished. The addition of Charette’s organ is a wise move on the part of producer, Marc Free. Organ with horns almost always seems about right.
“Easy” from Steve Davis is all that and more. If you dig hard bop as much as I do, the blend that Davis and Magnarelli so effortlessly possess helps with the continuum of this genre. It’s hard to quantify to those who do not appreciate the Blue Note/Prestige origins of hard bop that continue today through efforts of High Note, Savant, and Posi-Tone, but when you just hear a few choruses with the right mix of jazz musicians you know the future of the music we love is in good hands.
DiRubbo’s “The Step Up” has Mike and Brian doing just that. I forgot how much I enjoyed Mike’s previous Posi-Tone issues, Repercussion and Chronos. This track brought it back. “NYC-J-Funk” brings it and the pulse is set by Rudy Royston, spurring on Joe with a funkalicious back-beat and organ fills by Charette.
26-2, a contrafact of Coltrane’s based on Bird’s “Confirmation” gives DiRubbo center-stage to blow and we enter the bop arena. Joe and Steve also have solos here. Joe gets into rapid- fire delivery mode on “Paris.” The horns’ ensemble blend is highlighted on another Coltrane tune, “Central Park West” before Joe’s lyrical solo.
Top to bottom, Magnarelli’s Three on Two CD release is a slam dunk issue highlighted by Joe making all the right moves on the jazz court…
TrackList: Three on Two, Easy, The Step Up, NYC-J-Funk, 26-2, Clockwise, Paris, Central Park West, Outlet Pass, My Reverie
For Tom Tallitsch’s latest album (released last month by Posi-Tone Records), the tenor ace assembles a stellar sextet for All Together Now. With a gathering of Tallitsch on tenor sax, Mike DiRubbo on alto, Michael Dease on trombone, Brian Charette on keyboards, Peter Brendler on bass and Mark Ferber on drums, Tallitsch went all out talent-wise, making this more appropriately “All Star Together Now.”
His fast follow-up to 2014’s Ride again tweaks the band construction from the prior record, with DiRubbo being the key addition. With three horns up front, Tallitsch gets to go more creative with the arrangements and add a forceful, layered swing to the sharp, expressive soloing that these guys were seemingly born to do.
Tallitsch puts this vast array of talent to work on the hot, hard bop originals like “Passages,” Border Crossing” and “Medicine Man”; these are the kind of numbers that make Posi-Tone the closest thing we’ve got today to the classic Blue Note label. The three horn masters all burn on their solos for the opening “Passage,”, and then Charette on piano caps it off with an inspired one of his own. On the second of this trio, Brendler’s taut bass keeps it all locked down as DiRubbo delivers a towering cascade of notes, followed by Tallitsch’s spiritual and spirited turn. Both of these guys also shimmer on “Medicine Man, ” while Dease exploits his extended showcase on the shuffling mid-tempo “Curmudgeon.”
All Together Now isn’t some mere Art Blakey homage, though, even though it’d be a nice one. The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is the recipient of that old gospel feel with Charette moving over to organ as Tallitsch administers just the right amount of soul and DiRubbo finishes what Tallitsch started. The chorus opens up like angels appearing out of the sky and the whole band ratchets up the passion to dramatic effect. Gospel is visited upon again for “Arches,” resplendent but in a somber way. Charette is heard on electric piano for Frank Zappa and George Duke’s “Uncle Remus,” an overlooked cut from Zappa’s hit album Apostrophe(‘), but Tallitsch recognized Zappa’s underrated flair for a delicate melody and showed how at home this tunes feels in jazzier hands.
In a time when mainstream jazz is often thought of (and sometimes treated) as some stoic museum piece, Tom Tallitsch can always be counted on to counter that notion with a presentation of this idiom that’s dynamic, majestic and yes, a boatload of fun. With All Together Now, the fun continues.
Tom Tallitsch. All Together Now.
Posi-Tone Records, 2015. Tom Tallitsch: http://www.tomtallitsch.com/
It must be the season for good jazz releases. Tom Tallitsch’s last CD, Ride, was reviewed here about a year ago, and his releases seem to be coming at a faster rate than ever. His third album for Posi-Tone brings back two of his bandmates from last year, bassist Peter Brendler and trombonist Michael Dease, replaces the pianist and drummer, and adds an alto sax player Mike DiRubbo for some higher notes. The result is a somewhat richer and fuller sound. Nine of the eleven tunes are originals, with a Zappa composition and one by Robbie Robertson rounding out the set.
Tallitsch covers some of the same ground as he did on the last release, but here he emphasizes gospel and blues. Case in point, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” a classic piece of Americana in the hands of The Band, becomes a gospel showpiece in the hands of this band. While the gospel influence was always there, Tallitsch really brings it to the front, even while sticking close to the melody. The style is revisited in the closing track, “Arches,” one of his own tunes. Tallitsch plays it light, sweet, and slow, with some lovely solo work by several of the band members. The tune has the same sad, downward drift as the “Midnight Cowboy Theme” (it took me a few minutes to recall what this reminded me of). On the blues side, “Uncle Remus” takes us furthest into that style, with some delicious keyboard work by Brian Charette, while the Zappa/Duke song “Greasy Over Easy” delivers in similar fashion, with a bit of a soul twist.
Elsewhere, we hear a lot of fine tunes, some faster, some slower, each creating its own space and delivering a different view of the group’s work. “Passages,” the opener, gives everybody a quick solo in fast tempo, as if it were an overture to the rest of the album. “Slippery Rock” takes a slower pace with Tallitsch and DiRubbo trading off on their saxes. “Border Crossing” lets the group sound nearly like a big band with saxes and trombone all playing in unison, and “Curmudgeon” does the same, but gives Michael Dease a nice chance to be featured with some soulful trombone. “Medicine Man” sounds like Paul Desmond is nearby. Nearly everywhere Brian Charette adds to the mix or provides short pithy solos that sometimes quote familiar tunes. Underneath it all is the fine rhythm section of Brendler and Ferber, anchoring the group strongly, but never ostentatiously so, and occasionally surfacing for a short feature. Sometimes I mention a favorite tune, but here I can’t. They’re all good.
Tenor saxophonist and composer Tom Tallitsch is also in CT this Friday (see below) and he, too, is celebrating the release of a new CD. “All Together Now” is his 6th recording as a leader and the 3rd for Posi-Tone Records. Fittingly, there are 6 musicians on the date; besides the leader, there’s Mike DiRubbo (alto saxophone), Michael Dease (trombone), Brian Charette (acoustic and electric pianos, organ), Peter Brendler (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums) – all but the drummer have issued albums on the label (DiRubbo and Charette are also CT natives!)
9 of the 11 tracks are Tallitsch originals and display a penchant for strong melodies plus lively arrangements. The first track, “Passages“, jumps right out of the gate with smart rhythmic changes and great blowing all around. Ferber and Brendler lead the charge, the reeds and brass pick up the and all enjoy the thick cushion of piano chords from Charette. A pleasant surprise comes next with the gospel-soaked “The Night The Drove Old Dixie Down“, a spotlight for Charette in that both his piano and organ sounds are integral to the texture and movement of the piece. The leader’s tenor solo stays close to melody and the horns strongly respond in the background (make sure to pay attention Ferber’s brilliant drumming which is something you should always do).
The program contains 11 tracks, only one coming close to 6 minutes, yet the listener is bound to be fully satiated by the sounds. This is no mere “blowing” session, each song has a solid, even singable, melody line. Best of all, everyone gets a chance to be heard without the album turning into solo after solo. That makes the disk feel more like a group effort as if Tallitsch made sure everyone stayed sharp. For instance, the medium-tempo “Curmudgeon“, contains a bluesy melody line followed by short solos from both saxophonists and Dease; still, it’s the great work from the rhythm section that makes the song feel complete. Yes, these musicians are “pros” but even the most dedicated ones don’t always give their all. No such issue here – even blues tunes such as “Greasy Over Easy” have a snap in tier swagger. The CD closes with “Arches“, another piece with a gospel feel, a handsome melody, smart harmonies and more strong work from the rhythm section. The electric piano, full bass notes and excellent brushes work set up the solos. Bassist Brendler is oh-so-melodic in his short solo, setting up Charette’s short statement that leads to a soulful tenor spotlight while the alto and trombone sway in the background. The closing notes fade easily, a perfect close to an impressive session.
“All Together Now” lives up to its name, 6 musicians gathering for 1 day in the studio and creating a “joyful noise.” Post-Tone Records is celebrating its 20th year in a grand way, producing albums that are among the best producer Marc Free and engineer Nick O’Toole have sent our way – this just may be the best CD Tom Tallitsch has issued…so far. To find out more, go to www.tomtallitsch.com.
Steve Davis, Gettin’ It Done (Posi-Tone)
If you’re looking for a killer straightahead record, grab a copy of Steve Davis’ Gettin’ It Done. The trombone veteran has a blue-chip pedigree as a sideman with the likes of Art Blakey and Jackie McLean—and a fine string of releases as a leader, too. Davis proudly shows off his hard-bop chops as Gettin’ It Done swings through eight solid tunes in a sextet setting. Billy Williams, Larry Willis and Nat Reeves drive the groove on drums, piano and bass, respectively. The horn section—led by Davis with Josh Bruneau on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Mike DiRubbo on alto sax—digs into some tasty lines and fine soloing. The title track serves as a perfect example. It’s a Davis original, and a burner that would have fit in nicely with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers back in the day. The head of this up-tempo blast delivers some tight horn work over a driving beat, and then it’s a round-robin of crazy good solos by DiRubbo, Bruneau, Davis and Willis, finishing with a blistering outro. On the flip side, the band chills out on another Davis original, “Longview.” Willis is the epitome of touch and taste, whether soloing or comping, and that’s especially true on this tune. Williams adds a fine drum solo here as well. The group showcases its grace throughout the program, whether dancing through Davis’ six original tunes, John Coltrane’s “Village Blues” or Bobby Hebb’s 1966 pop chestnut “Sunny.” It all makes for a foot-tapping, pleasant listen.
Trombonist Steve Davis’ latest disc, his second on that post-bop flagbearer of a label Posi-Tone, is loaded with keen, well-crafted music for a no-nonsense, at times Blakey-style sextet.
Kicking off the CD is an incisive three-horns arrangement of John Coltrane’s 1961 piece Village Blues. Davis, alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo, the brash-young trumpeter Josh Bruneau, and veteran pianist Larry Willis step up with clear statements. Bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Billy Williams, another jazz 20-something making a splash on this CD, calibrate the groove nicely. The followup tune, the disc’s title track, is a faster, more urgent minor blues with a fanfare feeling and charging solos.
Davis’ relaxed two-feel tune Steppin’ Easy lives up to its title. The 1960s pop tuneSunny, the disc’s other cover along with Village Blues, has plenty of nice forward motion. For a study in contrasts, pit Alike, Davis’ suspended-time ballad for himself, with The Beacon, the funky, electric-bass blues that follows.
Longview is a sleek swinger, and Wishes takes the disc out with a waltz that while on the mellow side, features Willis and Davis playing with plenty of poise.
Calling trombonist Steve Davis a veteran is probably inappropriate—after all, he was a mere 44 year-old when he recorded Gettin’ It Done in October, 2011. However, he has such a wealth of experience, such a command of his instrument and such a rich back catalog of recordings that based on his body of work rather than his birthday such a soubriquet is not so out of place. Gettin’ It Done is a worthy addition to the Davis discography: a swinging, beautifully performed and exceptionally well-recorded sextet outing.
The album contains two covers, both classic tunes, given a fresh and vibrant sound by the sextet. John Coltrane‘s “Village Blues” opens the album as the band sets the scene with a passionate and coolly swinging performance that ups the tempo compared to the Coltrane Jazz (Atlantic, 1961) original—which, coincidentally, features bassist Steve Davis. There’s also a take on Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” that showcases both Davis’ warm, rich tone and Josh Bruneau’s bright, brassy sound.
Davis’ own compositions range from the smooth swing of “Steppin’ Easy” to the punchy and up-tempo “Gettin’ It Done.” As might be expected from a player who was mentored by the great Curtis Fuller and who’s collaborated with Jackie McLean and Art Blakey, among many others, Davis writes a mean hard bop number. As the gentle, late-night groove of “Alike” shows, he can also write a romantic ballad, and his performance on the tune also demonstrates the more romantic and considered side of his playing.
Alto saxophonist and fellow Posi-Tone artist Mike DiRubbo is the only sextet member to have joined Davis on his previous album, Images—The Hartford Suite (Posi-Tone, 2010), although pianist Larry Willis and bassist Nat Reeves have a long history of collaborations with Davis. The sextet impresses on every track, a dynamic and intuitive ensemble that offers sympathetic support to the solos and proves itself eminently capable of laying down whatever Davis asks of it—a tight, funky, groove (“The Beacon”), a sultry swing (“Wishes”) or straight-ahead mid-tempo drive (“Longview”) are all delivered with style.
The music on Gettin’ It Done is the creation of a band that does much more than simply getting things done. Davis and his fellow musicians play with flair and an enthusiasm for the music that bursts out of the speakers. This is one of Davis’ most impressive albums—and one of the most enjoyable straight-ahead albums of 2012.