Al Ashley: These Are Them (2005)
In the liner notes to drummer Al Ashley's These Are Them, the title is given this meaning: "these are good times, enjoy them while you are able, for they will never return again." Not a bad way to approach life in general, and certainly appropriate for the immediacy necessary in the recording studio. The inclusion of saxophonist Dave Liebman on the date is due mention; long well-known among players and educators, he's too often overshadowed by his more famous brethren. In addition, this is Liebman's first recording with an organ trio, adding freshness to the proceedings as a bonus.
Ashley's relaxed style relies more upon taste and steadiness than dazzling displays of technique. This sets the tone for similar playing within the group. Guitarist Rick Stone's explorations are deft and cleanly displayed. Liebman, brilliant as always, does not venture much beyond a controlled boil, which is perfect in this setting. Organist Oliver Von Essen prefers a gritty edge to his sound, a bit of controlled distortion evident throughout. He might just be a guitarist in organ's clothes!
Ashley contributes three original compositions, with one each from his cohorts. Four of the tunes are medium tempo 4/4 swing, the others being a waltz, a ballad, and a very cool blues, "Perfect Day." In fact, Liebman lays down such a superb solo, filled with history and old time sensibility, that you cannot hold back a big smile. The ensemble is similarly inspired, a real treat to be sure.
The entire date was recorded in one day, avoiding numerous takes and overdubs. Although there is a somewhat obvious studio quality, the playing compensates by showing plentiful signs of joy and communication. If the recording has a standout flaw, it is in the slightly constrained overall sound. However, that is certainly a subjective observation and does not detract from the performances. This is an enjoyable set played by competent musicians with enough innovation to keep one guessing.
Track Listing: Blue Note; These are Them; Perfect Day; The Other Time; Rlative Minority; Fats Write; Look at What We Do to Ourselves (52:52)
Personnel: Al Ashley, Drums; Rick Stone, Guitar; Oliver Von Essen, Organ; Dave Liebman, Saxophones