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Unbelievably amazing coverage for the label and some of our latest releases Jacam Manricks, Steve Davis, and Wayne Escoffery coming to us courtesy of the Something Else! musicblog…

Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Some positively solid releases from Posi-Tone Records (2009, 2010)
by Pico

One of the newer jazz labels that’s been on a roll lately is Marc Free’s outfit, Posi-Tone Records. Started up in 1994, Posi-Tone is a rare independent label that’s done a remarkable job in balancing its roster with top shelf veterans and some of the more promising young talent, specializing in mainstream, soul and even a little bit of whack jazz. What’s more, the production quality of their releases are on par with some of the larger labels like Concord and even ECM.

Already, five P-T releases have been picked apart in this space since the beginning of the year; just click on the “Posi-Tone Records” tag to see what we’ve covered already . Lately, though, these guys have been churning out records at a faster pace than what I can keep up with, which probably wouldn’t be an issue if they were crappy records. Instead, this is an issue where both quality and quantity are both plentiful. And that’s when it’s time for a Quickies.

The three releases presented here are just a sample of what I’ve been digging from the label lately, but are representative of the level of new talent who flock to this label. If you hadn’t heard of these cats before, well, it’s time you did…


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A nice AAJ piece featuring reviews of our latest Organ Jazz releases: Wayne Escoffery “Uptown” and the Dan Pratt Organ Quartet “Toe the Line”….

The State of Organ Jazz 2010, Part I: Wayne Escoffery, Dan Pratt and Matthew Kaminski
By C. Michael Bailey

Organ-based jazz inhabits a unique place as a sub-genre. The combination of the sacred churchy organ with the decadence of blues and bebop made for a heady brew after the introduction of the format by Wild Bill Davis and Bill Doggett in the 1950s. Qualitatively, the names that loom largest in organ jazz are Jimmy Smith, who put organ jazz on the map with his 1960s Blue Note and Verve recordings, and Larry Young, who picked up where Smith left off at Blue Note, propelling organ jazz into the fusion realm with drummer Tony Williams.

Besides being a firebrand, the organ rhythm section offers a grand alternative to piano and guitar setups. It provides an earthy sophistication, a hint of “soul jazz” as rich as bacon fat added to greens. In spring 2010, the market allows for several organ jazz releases of note. Here are three of them coming from Wayne Escoffery, Dan Pratt, and Matthew Kaminski.

Wayne Escoffery
Posi-Tone Records

Wayne Escoffery’s previous recordings, Times Change (Nagel Heyer Records, 2001), Intuition (Nagel Heyer Records, 2004), Veneration: Live at Smoke (Savant Records, 2007), Carolyn Leonhart & Wayne Escoffery—If Dreams Come True (Nagel- Heyer Records, 2007) and Wayne Escoffery & Veneration—Hopes & Dreams (Savant Records, 2008), established the saxophonist as a solid post bop musician with intelligent ideas and fine tonal form. His keen approach is sharpened in the organ trio format, where every edge and corner is visible.

This sharpness and precision in this format is made that much more keen by guitarist Avi Rothbard’s composing. “No Desert” and “Cross Bronx” are draftsman-angular pieces with accurate heads and orderly solos, all held together with the glue of Gary Versace’s organ. The real treat on the disc is a rollicking version of Duke Ellington’s “I Got it Bad,” where Escoffery swings so hard he changes the weather. Escoffery’s retro blues “Easy Now” is breezy with a gospel feel. “Nu Soul” breaks into adult contemporary terrain with a complex, assertive head. Escoffery is full-throated in his tenor tone and Versace all creamy warmth.

Uptown is an exciting release, a chance taken where the payoff is very finely performed music. Wayne Escoffery should return to this format in future recordings, but should not to over-do it, in case he makes the experience pedestrian.

Visit Wayne Escoffery on the web.

Dan Pratt Organ Quartet
Toe The Line
Posi-Tone Records

Saxophonist Dan Pratt likes to fray those precise edges established by Wayne Escoffery, adding a bit of funky freedom to the mix. He also adds the competing trombone of Alan Ferber, rounding out the horn tone of the combo. Toe The Line is Pratt’s second recording, following Spring Loaded (Sunny Sky, 2004). It is a collection of eight Pratt originals and one standard (Ellington’s “Star Crossed Lovers”).

Pratt’s compositional bent tends to smart and wordy post bop. “Houdini” and “Minor Procedure” both are up-tempo burners with winding introductions. “Doppelganger” is an off-time blues that allows Pratt’s tenor to have contrapuntal relations with Alan Ferber’s trombone. The two unite for some slick and mantra-like ensemble play that oddly recalls saxophonist John Coltrane’s spiritual spasms without imitating them.

“Star Crossed Lovers” bisects the recital with a bona fide ballad treatment that recalls baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer in a very modern way. Jared Gold provides a most modern organ solo that mixes well with Pratt’s and Ferber’s subsequent soliloquies. The closing piece, “After,” opens with a Pentecostal call-and-response that flirts with a ballad before crossing the blues with sanctified gospel, producing 21st century New Orleans R & B. This broadly appealing album has much to offer listeners, its coda being a part of jazz fans’ collective DNA.

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An insightful review of our record “Playdate” (featuring Amanda Monaco, Wayne Escoffery, Noah Baerman, Vinnie Sperazza and Henry Lugo) taken from the pen of AAJ writer John Barron…

Playdate brings together a trio of long time friends and musical collaborators. Guitarist Amanda Monaco, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, and pianist Noah Baerman have known each other since high school, studying music together at the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, Connecticut. The ensemble is rounded out by bassist Henry Lugo and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza for a lively quintet set of originals and lesser-known jazz gems.

The disc opens with Monaco’s spirited hard-bopping swinger “Copper Tone,” a perfect warm-up vehicle for the lyrical guitarist, as well as Escoffery and Baerman. The three deliver succinct solos, spurred by Lugo’s pulsating walking lines. Baerman’s waltz “Remember the Goldfish,” a disc highlight, has a rhythmic give-and-take with catchy thematic sweeps. Here, Escoffery builds his tenor solo to a level of otherworldly intensity, followed by an explosive drum excursion by Sperazza.

A colorful rubato guitar introduction sets the pace for “Yes, Yes, Oh Yes!,” a groovy minor blues by the late pianist James Williams. “T-Time,” composed by Baerman is the most intricately composed piece from the session, utilizing the instrumentation at hand to skillfully weave together a variety of motifs into a coherent unit. Refreshingly, the tune settles into a more straightforward middle section, allowing Escoffery to soar on soprano saxophone.

The disc slows to a melancholic turn with “Baby Man,” a swaying ballad by the late saxophonist John Stubblefield. Escoffery and Monaco seem to relish in the tune’s laid-back groove, exhibiting patient and thoughtful lines. Sperrazza contributes the disc’s closing tracks, “Milan Kundera,” an exotic sounding piece with an odd-metered funky feel and “Memday,” a light-as-air ballad featuring a strong bass solo by Logo.

The camaraderie and shared musical vision of the ensemble is evident throughout this superb recording. Hopefully, there are more playdates scheduled.

Track listing: Copper Tone; Remember the Goldfish; Yes, Yes, Oh Yes!; T-Time; Baby Man; Milan Kundera; Memday.

Personnel: Wayne Escoffery: saxophone; Noah Baerman: piano; Amanda Monaco: guitar; Vinnie Sperrazza: drums; Henry Lugo: bass.

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Dan Bilawsky’s AAJ review for “Playdate” featuring Amanda Monaco, Wayne Escoffery, Noah Baerman, Vinnie Sperrazza, Henry Lugo….

by Dan Bilawsky

While children spend after school-hours and weekends working on homework and spending time with their families, they also have play dates. They get together with other like-minded friends to let loose and blow off some steam. Musicians often do the same thing and, appropriately enough, three of the five performers on Playdate have been friends since high school. Guitarist Amanda Monaco, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery and pianist Noah Baerman have a shared history, having studied music together in Connecticut, and they’ve joined forces with bassist Henry Lugo and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza to form Playdate.

The group/album title makes perfect sense because of the relationship of the participants but it can be misleading if viewed from a musical stance. This isn’t a loose blowing session with overdone standards. The press materials mark the album as a “delightful combination of the hard bop tradition and modern sophistication” and, while this is largely accurate, the scales tip a little toward the latter. Five of the seven tracks on this record were written by the participants and each song has something different to say. Monaco’s tone is warm and inviting and Escoffery—lacking rough edges here—matches her with his own sound.

The album begins in with the mid-tempo swing of Monaco’s “Copper Tone.” Escoffery spins out instantly appealing and simply executed melodic lines that dovetail with Monaco and, to a lesser extent, Baerman. At times, Monaco blends so well with Escoffery, that it almost seems like another horn is present. James Williams’ “Yes, Yes Oh Yes!,” receives a red carpet reading, beginning with Monaco’s solo introduction and moving to a cool swing vibe, highlighted by Escoffery’s nonchalant and incredibly hip delivery. A long run of solos, featuring some deep bellowing notes from Escoffery, is capped off by a sax cadenza and some arco bass toward the end of the song.

Sperrazza proves to be a double-threat here with his fine drumming and intriguing compositions. His “Milan Kundera,” taking its name from the famed author, sounds like a cheery Vince Guaraldi-style Charlie Brown song—in seven—with slight calypso inflections adding to its originality. While Escoffery’s main axe is his tenor saxophone, his work on soprano here is fresh and proves to be one of the highlights of the album. The connection established between these musicians, both in terms of personal history and in musical empathy, is solid; hopefully this won’t be a one-time play date.

Track listing: Copper Tone; Remember The Goldfish; Yes, Yes, Oh Yes!; T-Time; Baby Man; Milan Kundera; Memday.

Personnel: Wayne Escoffery: saxophones; Noah Baerman: piano; Amanda Monaco: guitar; Vinnie Sperrazza: drums; Henry Lugo: acoustic bass.

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A nice write-up for Playdate taken from the Audiophile Audition…..
By Daniel Krow

Playdate – Playdate – Posi-Tone Records PR8055, 49:23 ****:

(Wayne Escoffery, tenor and soprano saxophone; Noah Baerman, piano;Amanda Monaco, guitar; Vinnie Sperrazza, drums, Henry Lugo, acoustic bass)

Playdate is made up of three high school friends (Noah Baerman, Wayne Escoffery, and Amanda Monaco, who all attended the jazz program at New Haven’s Educational Center for the Arts together), plus bassist Henry Lugo and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza, who play with Baerman in his Noah Baerman trio. The group’s first CD, Playdate, is a delightful album that’s full of complex interplay and melodic invention.

High points of the album include Remember the Goldfish, which has a breezy, Brubeck-sounding melody and a careful restrained guitar solo from Monaco; Yes, Yes, Oh Yes!, a song written by the late James Williams, which starts with slow, “loungey” guitar from Monaco, but moves into a swinging tete-a-tete between Monaco and Baerman, with each taking turns playing eight bar solos that gain intensity from Sperrazza’s shifting tempos; T-Time, which has a funky bass line that sounds like it’s being played by both Henry Lugo and Baerman’s left hand, and Milan Kundera, a tribute to the Czech author that has a buoyant triumphant melody.
As a group, Playdate have an amazing chemistry together. Their generosity as players is highly commendable and leaves one impressed with the unit as a whole, not just as individual players. I highly recommend Playdate’s self-titled album and look forward to their next CD.

TrackList: Copper Tone, Remember The Goldfish, Yes, Yes, Oh Yes!, T-Time, Baby Man, Milan Kundera, Memday

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Music and More review of “Uptown”….

Wayne Escoffery – Uptown (Posi-Tone, 2009)

Tenor Saxophonist and composer Wayne Escoffery has slowly been building a fine resume, both as a leader and a sideman with the likes of the Mingus Big Band and trumpeter Tom Harrell. On this album, he leads a hard swinging band with Avi Rothbard on guitar Gary Versace on organ and Jason Brown on drums. “No Desert” opens the album with an uptempo organ groove and boppish saxophone. Escoffery solos with great dexterity and speed. After a fluid guitar solo with organ and drums, saxophone returns to lead the tune out. “Cross Bronx” has a bright, up-tempo feel led by brisk and hard edged tenor saxophone. There is some fast and agile full band improvisation that is polished and exciting. “You Know I Care” is a lush ballad with nice, patient saxophone soloing over full, rich organ sound. Rothbard steps out with a well paced solo, reminiscent of Grant Green in its phrasing. The group builds in some R&B elements on a few songs, “Nu Soul” and “Easy Now,” but the music stays firm and swinging, incorporating these elements well. This was a well done album, easily recommendable to fans of the modern mainstream. The organ – tenor combination is an enjoyable one, and the musicians make the best of it on this album.


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ejazznews review for Wayne Escoffery “Uptown”…

Saxophonist Wayne Escoffery transmits maturity beyond his years, and has been in the thick of things within modern jazz since the early 2000’s. He’s an impressive solo artist who has recorded and performed with trumpeter Tom Harrell, vibist Joe Locke and Ben Riley’s Monk Legacy Septet among other jazz luminaries. Here, Escoffery conveys assertive leadership via the democratic group-centric format. And he possesses a fluent mode of attack, which is abetted by his near-flawless phraseology and authoritative presence.

Gushing with resplendent lyricism, the band fuses memorable melodies with radiance and power, yet lowers the temperature when appropriate. Venerable organist Gary Versace comps, contrasts and trades fours with the leader, whether dishing out silvery single note lines or generating dark chord clusters to embed a broad soundscape into the mix.

On “I Got It Bad,” Escoffery intertwines fire and brimstone atop a Texas roadhouse organ-combo vamp, emphasized by punchy and impacting choruses. Nonetheless, the saxophonist’s impeccable timing and tension-building notes are engineered with equal portions of blustery sheets of sound and harmonious accents.

Guitarist Avi Rothbard’s funk licks on “Nu Soul,” conveys a cheery vibe atop the rhythm section’s sturdy pulse, tinted by an appealing motif as Escoffery’s sinewy maneuvers project a soul-stirring aura. With “Maya’s Waltz,” the quartet delves into a climactic jazz waltz groove, where the soloists enjoy some extended space and time to bring it all back home.

Escoffery possesses a monstrous technique, yet the program is not about running through scales and delving into speed-demon time signatures. Consequently, the album communicates modern jazz music that is framed with a sensation of purpose. Among many positives, that notion alone yields much the bountiful fruit. – Glenn Astarita

Track listing: No Desert; I Got It Bad; Cross Bronx; You Know I Care; Road from Eilat; Gulf of Aqaba; Nu Soul; Maya’s Waltz; Easy Now.

Personnel: Wayne Escoffery: tenor sax; Avi Rothbard: guitar; Gary Vesace: organ; Jason Brown: drums.

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Sound Bites review of “Uptown”….

Wayne Escoffery
Uptown (Posi-Tone)

Rating: ★★★½☆

This well-named disc from tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery pulses with urban energy and old-school soul, contrasting firmly modernistic jazz statements with swinging feel-good grooves. Escoffery’s solos are like towering monoliths, huge, dense and hard as stone, as his notes spill over in seemingly endless streams as the rest of his quartet offers thick, buoyant support. Organist Gary Versace sounds flat-out retro on several tracks, skipping with a happy nimbleness over solid foot-pedal basslines straight out of the 1960s, but also adds mystery to the exotic “Road from Eilat/Gulf of Aqaba” and the flinty “No Desert.” Avi Rothbard keeps things cool and groovy on guitar, gliding through Jason Brown’s lively drumming in “Cross Bronx” and the catchy, danceable “Nu Soul.” No new ground is broken here, but this disc will satisfy an itch for the classic, and Escoffery’s titanic sax sound is always welcome.

-Forrest Dylan Bryant


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the zookeeper reviews Wayne Escoffery’s “Uptown”….

Posi-Tone, 2009

BOP/SOUL-JAZZ – This well-named disc from tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery pulses with urban energy and old-school soul, contrasting firmly modernistic jazz statements with swinging feel-good grooves. Escoffery’s solos are like towering monoliths, huge, dense and hard as stone, as his notes spill over in seemingly endless streams as the rest of his quartet offers thick, buoyant support. No new ground is broken here, but Escoffery’s titanic sax sound is always welcome.

Wayne Escoffery – saxophone
Avi Rothbard – guitar
Gary Versace – organ
Jason Brown – drums

* * * | Fo’s Picks: 1, 3, 6, 8

1. 5:34 – serious swing, thick groove: sax churns, calm guitar, modern organ
2. 5:10 – old-school soul-jazz swing on Duke Ellington classic, kinda bluesy
3. 5:34 – chugging big-city groove: guitar glides, drums bash, dense sax solo
4. 5:28 – ballad: organ makes it syrupy, but sax is romantic & guitar is lively
5. 1:03 – mysterious organ, intro to track 6…
6. 5:55 – tense with dragging tempo, hints of faux-exoticism, great sax solo
7. 4:44 – easygoing soul-jazz; danceable, summery feel, groovin’ solos
8. 8:45 – in waltz time, serious feel: guitar & sax wrap around upbeat organ
9. 2:10 – happy soulful sway, a bit of sass, long fade-out

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Brad Walseth reviews “Uptown”…

Posi-tone Records
Wayne Escoffery, tenor saxophone; Avi Rothbard, guitar; Gary Versace, organ; Jason Brown, drums.

Britain-born Wayne Escoffery teams with Israeli-born Avi Rothbard for many of the original compositions on this recording. The music is mainly straight-ahead, and the musicians find an easy groove on practically all the songs and stick with it. Escoffery notes that his influences are Coltrane, Rollins, Shorter, and a few others but he reminds me more of Stanley Turrentine in his ability to stay in that middle range and sustain the listener’s interest in his playing. From the opening piece, “No Desert,” to the real final one, “Maya’s Waltz,” Rothbard is his trusted companion. Rothbard is particularly strong on that opening piece, along with Versace. On organ, Versace truly finds a bluesy groove for the instrument on the ballad “You Know I Care,” allowing Escoffery to takes his time and let the music develop, no matter the quicken improvisational direction Rothbard brings into the piece, playing for awhile as if he owned it. Throughout each selection, the Latin-tinged “Cross Bronx” to the Middle Eastern-flavored “Gulf of Aqaba” to the pop-inspired “Nu Soul,” the musicians find a place of unity and swing throughout. Although the final piece, “Easy Now” is too short and too sweet, at least for this reviewer’s taste. Completion would have been better served with the longest piece of the set, “Maya’s Waltz,” with its extremely effective passage featuring guitar, drums, and organ. Overall the work is easy on the ears, the musicians work well together, and the recording provides a standout piece in “Cross Bronx.”

As with the other recordings, one could play this music for guest, and it would be entertaining but not intrusive. But like the other groups, too, there is a bit of repetitiousness about the music. The composers posit one line, and the rest is repetition with subtle variations.