Bill Cunliffe/Gary Foster: It's About Love (2004)
This album is a second volume presenting the music of composer Reed Kotler, following Bobby Shew-Gary Foster and Friends Play the Music of Reed Kotler (2002). It's About Love resumes with 13 songs as played by Gary Foster, Bill Cunliffe, Jeff D'Angelo and Tim Pleasant. Foster is one of Los Angeles' best kept secrets. I've heard him over the past 25 years on many Concord records and on smaller labels but rarely leading his own group. Cunliffe has been receiving increasing praise for his compositional, arranging skills and piano work over the recent past. Last year's How My Heart Sings was one of the most impressive series of arrangements of 2003.
I like to compare Gary Foster to the late Paul Desmond. Of course, they really don't sound alike (although on "Nine Steps" and "I Can't Forget," Foster gets pretty close). But like the late alto player, Foster plays a melody and solo with the same sense of cool detachment with perfect economy and beauty that makes the most of a good melody. The album begins with an attractive bossa nova, "At the End of the Day," on tenor sax, and continues in the same mode on "I've Been Thinking of You Lately" on alto. Both of these tunes set the stage for Kotler's compositions. They're all good examples of lyrical melody lines and, in these two cases, call out for awaiting vocal interpretations.
In the liner notes Kotler offers interesting origins of the compositions based upon the chord changes of jazz standards, and "Nine Steps" is a good example, based upon the changes of Coltrane's "Giant Steps." It starts off as a ballad, changes tempo, and at the finish line returns to a slower pace. Likewise, other compositions are based upon Sonny Rollins' "Doxy," Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream," Ray Brown's "Gravy Waltz," and the standard "Unforgettable."
In addition to Foster's inspired work, almost entirely on alto sax, Cunliffe gets several opportunities to show his prowess at the keyboards. On "Spring is Near" he contributes a tasty solo that is both melodic and energetic. D'Angelo, who is Cunliffe's working bassist, gets an impressive solo on "Cool Walk" and Tim Pleasant contributes throughout with percussive support. The album ends with a pensive "Forever." Torii Records, now only three releases old, has a good thing going.
Track Listing: At the End of the Day, I've Been Thinking of You Lately, Where Do I Go From Here?, Nine Steps, I Can't Forget, Spring is Near, Thank You Lord,Amen!, Song for Bill C., Cool Walk, Love is in the Air, Thoughts of You, Duck's Tune, Forever.
Personnel: Gary Foster, tenor and alto sax; Bill Cunliffe, piano and arrangements; Jeff D'Angelo,bass; Tim Pleasant,drums