Smaller, more intimate ensembles rule Plate #3. I guess it was my mood, but I listened to a big band recording and just could not get into it. I don't often reject things out of hand so I waited and tried again. Nothing. For whatever reason, trios and quartets are more to my liking at the moment.
Tyler Summers Trio – Live At The Cellar
Hey, so the trio is actually a quintet. Sort of. In any event, there's a healthy dose of telepathic interplay on this disc. I particularly like how Summers plays his soprano sax (he plays alto as well) off of David Braid's piano on "Contemplation." There are also long-form compositions ("Solitary Candle") and tracks that build drama with inventive use of unison lines. "Patience" (my favorite track) is such a tune, torquing up the electricity with some exhilarating starts and stops. The back & forth between busted passages and straight ahead swing is a load of fun.
Dan Pratt Organ Quartet – Toe The Line
You just can't go wrong with the B-3. Saxophonist Dat Pratt might be running the show, but it's B-3 player Jared Gold who is the secret weapon here. Secret weapon #2 (Wait, is it OK to have two?) is trombonist Alan Berber. Go ahead and check out the snazzy unison play the three of them cook up on "Doppleganger." This repeated elsewhere including on "Uncle Underpants." Great song title and gorgeously-delivered composition.
Mike LeDonne – The Groover
Yeah! Again with the B-3, this time with sax, guitar, and drums. From swing ("Bopsolete") to smokey blues (And what self-respecting organ ensemble would sidestep the blues? Check out "Deep Blue," killer guitar solo by Peter Bernstein on this one), this group knows how to have a good time. The title track gets in that groove and burns. And speaking of fun, there's always the swingin' cover of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" that opens the program.
Carolyn Leonhart & Wayne Escoffery – Tides of Yesterday
Normally, I'm not a particularly skeptical person. But when I see things in album credits like "hair," "makeup," and "dresses," it's tough to not tighten up a little. The good news is that Leonhart and Escoffery can bring it. She has a voice that manages to seem almost crystalline while retaining all sorts of texture. A perfect example of this is "Big Noise, New York," a bluesy Donald Fagen composition that allows Escoffery to step out early on with a nice solo before Leonhart comes in. The combination of voice and tenor saxophone is very subtle and sensual, something to be expected for a person who worked as a backup singer for Steely Dan for a decade.
Abdullah Ibrahim & WDR Big Band Colgne – Bombella
I am shocked to say that this recording left me cold. Shocked because it's got Abdullah Ibrahim on it! There certainly are some great moments, such as the solo piano opening track ("Green Kalahari") and the sprightly "Mandela" — come on, the melody is played on the irresistible piccolo flute! They also generate a serious amount of heat on "I Mean You/For Monk." Kudos to guitarist Paul Shigihara for a killer solo. And Ibrahim does lay out some pretty inventive ruminations during the solo "For Monk" part. Still, I got to the end and those three bits were the only parts I remembered. Maybe I was just in the mood for something a little smaller that day.