Buddy Rich: In a Zone of His Own
Let's be clear about one thing: alto saxophonist Bruce Babad doesn't sound like Paul Desmond, to whom Babad's impressive concert recording is dedicatedbut who ever has? What Babad does bring to the table is Desmond's flawless rhythmic awareness, as well as the late saxophonist's dry, understated yet perceptive musical vocabulary, one that made everything Dave Brubeck's alter ego played seem so incredibly easy. Yes, there are echoes of Desmond in Babad's cool-headed tone and style, but never do they descend into the realm of mere imitation. The kinship is especially explicit on the ballads: "When Sunny Gets Blue," "My Funny Valentine," "Wendy." Elsewhere, Babad nods appreciatively to Desmond while designing a seductive blueprint of his own.
In this live performance, taped at the A-Frame nightclub in Hollywood, Babad is capably supported by his working group: guitarist Larry Koonse, pianist Ed Czach, bassist Luther Hughes, drummer Steve Barnes. And even though Babad's is the most often heard solo voice, each of the others has a chance or two to shine, and dashes eagerly into the breach. Perhaps "ambles" would be more appropriate, as the mood is by and large easygoing and low-key, as befits the album's honoree. An exception is the fast-paced, bop-centered finale, "B*A*B*A*D" (written by guess-who and based on "I Got Rhythm"). Babad also wrote "Jan," while Desmond composed "Wendy," "Take Five" and "Desmond Blue." The session opens on a high note with Gerry Mulligan's lyrical classic "Line for Lyons" and also includes Ellington's "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" and what may seem an unusual choice (but one that works quite well), the late Fred Rogers' "It's You I Like." Babad is sharp on every tune, and loves to amplify his solos with brief quotes from other songs (I counted more than half a dozen, and others surely slipped past).
Although Bruce Babad's name may not be well known beyond his Southern California base, anyone who plays regularly in the Bill Holman Band has chops to spare, as Babad shows on his earnest tribute to Desmond (who surely would have applauded the enterprise). Babad's colleagues are no less talented, and their concert is a buoyant and pleasurable experience.
Sea Breeze Jazz
Predominantly straight-ahead, swinging themes from four gentlemen whose names are well known in and around Lexington, KY, less well-known elsewhereeven though they should be. After completing their day gigs as faculty members in the Jazz Studies department at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, these superb artists let their creative juices flow as members of the OslanDailey Jazztet, co-led by saxophonist Miles Osland and pianist Raleigh Dailey with rhythmic support from bassist Danny Cecil and drummer John Willmarth. They've been doing that for several years now, as well as playing together for more than a decade in the impressive DiMartino / Osland Jazz Orchestra. A case in which familiarity breeds excellence.
For its second recording, the Jazztet has chosen seven of Dailey's engaging compositions to complement two apiece by Keith Jarrett and Ron Carter, Thelonious Monk's "Evidence" and Carla Bley's "A.I.R." (All India Radio). Dailey, a favorite "unknown" pianist, is a perceptive soloist and accompanist, while Osland is a sharp and resourceful improviser in the post-bop tradition. Osland plays alto saxophone on most tracks, soprano on "A Long Way to Go" and "A.I.R.," flute on Dailey's "Forgetting" and "Wichita Mind Control." Cecil and Willmarth give the front-liners all the support they need, keeping the propulsive fires burning without calling undue attention to themselves. The album includes two "bonus" tracksthe esoteric "A.I.R." and exuberant "Wichita Mind Control"recorded live at UK's Singletary Center for the Arts (but presumably without an audience, as there is no response). There are no standards on the menu, nor indeed has any of the tunes (with the possible exception of "Evidence") been played often enough to enkindle the grey cells of anyone save the most avid pedant.
Although there are some brief instances of self-indulgence, as on Carter's "Eighty-One" and Jarrett's "Spiral Dance," the music is, for the most part, plain-spoken and enjoyable, and the average listener's reaction should follow a similar course.
Anders Hagberg & Johannes Landgren