Paul Serrato & Co.: More Than Red (2002)
There’s something special about the newest album of the accomplished jazz pianist Paul Serrato, More Than Red. Maybe it’s his polished balancing of playful energy and smooth capability when humming out varied, flavorful tunes. Or perhaps it’s his daring in producing a sound that frequently achieves a feel that’s distinctive and personal. Maybe it’s both of these qualities combined that makes this a smart buy for serious jazz cats seeking listening that does not simply play by the rules.
More Than Red has this in spades. The lush, lively piano playing of Serrato is apparent on every track of the album, but he’s an artist who remembers the importance of his backup. They include Julio Feliciano and Henry Morales on congas, Jack “Kako” Sanchez on bongos, Walter Kingsley on trumpet, Chip Shelton on flute, Bryce Sebastien on bass, and Rudy Romero on syndrum. Mixing together like coffee and cream, these players serve up some dynamic numbers. Among them: “Flats Broke,” a medium-tempo track making simple yet complex use of piano by Serrato and particularly tuneful trumpeting by Kingsley; “Skin Tight,” a funny, funky number that commences sort of like a jam session and then spikes up with calm piano and bouncy fluting like a 1940’s film noir club; “Visions,” a lengthier composition simultaneously lush and haunting. There are others to choose from, too, and even if there’s a tendency for solos to ever so slightly overstay their warm welcome, that’s what jazz is all about: living, breathing, playing --- creating --- in the moment.
No matter which song is selected, there’s room for every performer to shine; the sense of balance here invites some comparison with some of the notable work of Dave Holland. Even if the group doesn’t rank quite that high (and few do), each composition feels thought out carefully and played with similar skill and precision, sustaining a unique sound that stresses consistent pacing and joyful playing. Is it free jazz, or mainstream, or blues, or what? A little bit of each, which this jazz aficionado can dig. The final word: These guys can play, and we should listen.
Track Listing: 1. Sweet and Sour 4:32 2. Flats Broke (8:41) 3. Skin Tight (6:17) 4. Blues Schmooze (9:40) 5. Brownout Blues (3:42) 6. More Than Red (8:59) 7. Blues for a Graffiti Artist (4:19) 8. Visions (11:17) 9. Love Matters (10:05)
Personnel: Paul Serrato - piano Julio Feliciano - conga Henry Morales - conga Jack "Kako" Sanchez - bongo Walter Kingsley - trumpet Chip Shelton - flute Bryce Sebastien - basses Rudy Romero - syndrum