The MaxJazz Horn Series with Terell Stafford and Jeremy Pelt
Terell Stafford gives us New Beginnings , an eclectic blend of standards, spirituals and originals. The disc opens with Fletcher Henderson's "Soft Winds", a smooth mid-tempo tune. Stafford's notes soar and chuckle as he solos. Alto saxophonist Jesse Davis takes a smoky turn and Harry Allen follows on tenor, his sound reminiscent of Lester Young. Pianist Mulgrew Miller sparkles on his short, spirited solo. "I Don't Wanna Be Kissed" features Stafford skipping along in a moment of Harmon-muted exuberance. Miller opens the spiritual "He Knows How Much You Can Bear" with a perfect Sunday morning intro that flows effortlessly into a breezy Latin beat, Dick Oatts' alto sax blending seamlessly with Stafford's flugelhorn.
The disc's centerpiece is the "New Beginnings Suite", a trio of tunes that display Stafford's talents as a composer. The spicy "Selah" opens the suite, with Derrick Hodge's electric bass line serving as the song's funky heartbeat. "Le Maurier" begins with Hodge plucking an acoustic intro, followed by fabulous reed work by Stafford and Oatts. "Berda's Bounce" is a lightfooted romp which is a showcase for Miller, and features fine alto work by Steve Wilson.
"Blame It On My Youth" features lovely piano work by Miller supporting Stafford's fluttering, seductive flugelhorn, and drummer Dana Hall supplies splendid brush work. Stafford translates the spiritual "Kumbaya", the disc's closer, perfectly into the jazz idiom. The band knows the Lord is on His way, so they're just blowing some notes until He arrives.
Close to my Heart
Jeremy Pelt is another burgeoning trumpet force, and his latest release, Close To My Heart , featuring string arrangements by guitarist David O'Rourke, will enhance that reputation. Charles Mingus' "Weird Nightmare" begins as a shimmering dream but Pelt's luminous playing evokes the cynical undertones Mingus seemed to thrive on. "Excerent" is straight ahead jazz with excellent soloing by Pelt and a wonderful plucked solo by bassist Peter Washington, as well as a deft lead by Mulgrew Miller.
"502 Blues" finds Pelt playing a contemplative flugelhorn with drummer Lewis Nash whispering beside him on brushes. "All My Life" begins with a swirl of strings that leads smoothly into Pelt's opening note. On Ellington's "Don't You Know I Care" Pelt goes it alone with a heartfelt flugelhorn solo. "Pioggia Di Perugia" leads off with an extended intro by the rhythm section that builds the foundation for Pelt's spirited, dynamic solo.
The string section is comprised of violinists Meg Okura and Joyce Hammann, violist Ron Lawrence and cellist Dave Eggar. O'Rourke's arrangements are right on point and provide a lush background for the core quartet. Washington joins the string section on bowed bass on "In Your Eyes", supplying a lovely curtain behind Pelt's ever soaring trumpet to provide a truly lovely end to the disc.
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