Presence teams tenor saxophonist Woody Witt with the Larry Ham Trio, a jazz unit comprised of pianist Larry Ham, bassist Lee Hudson, and drummer Tom Melito. Witt and Ham first met in 2008, when the New York-based pianist was on tour through the Southwest. Since then, the pair have performed on each other’s tours, as a duo, and on a number of occasions as a quartet. Presence, their first recording together, was created after Witt and Ham had a successful eight-day tour throughout New York.
The quartet performs four originals penned by Witt, three numbers by Ham, and two jazz standards. “22’s Blues” launches their release into a straight-ahead jazz instrumental with an inlay of counterpoints and parallel phrases. The musicians apply all the decorative frills and adventurous thinking of a McCoy Turner original. Witt’s enthusiasm combines a nature to explore with a swinging style.
Witt’s energetic playing on “The Edge of Uncertainty” arches over the solemn mood crafted by the rhythm section. Witt trades off with Ham, as the piano takes the lead in sculpting dynamic movements. The pensive vista of “One of Many Shades” is driven by a jazz waltz that has Ham and Witt implementing fluid phrases around inventive solos. “Dee’s Dream” basks a sullen air that picks up steam midway with an upbeat pounce in the keys. The bright tweets of the sax return to a mellow drift through the exodus of the track.
Melito’s drums spring into action in the swinging standard “Just You, Just Me.” A post-bop treatment is applied to the track, as Witt elaborates on the dialogue, turning it into a vivacious romp. “Pirouette” bolsters a slow, molasses-like strut in Witt’s sax. He changes to a swinging jazz vitality in “Bleecker Street.”
The rhythm section sets a relaxed groove along “Concentric Circles” that acts as a springboard for Witt’s improvised stitching. The quartet produces a sentimental mood through “You Must Believe In Spring,” as the saxophone drapes elegantly across the lulling movements of the track.
Witt has recorded a string of impressive CDs during the past decade. In addition to leading his own groups, he has worked with trumpet players Randy Brecker, Tim Hagans, and Jim Rotondi, saxophonists James Moody and David Liebman, and pianist Joe LoCascio. The other half of the team, Larry Ham, brings into the equation his experiences with Lionel Hampton, Illinois Jacquet, and Catherine Russell, among others.
Presence is a high-quality set of modern and timeless jazz tunage that showcases Woody Witt and the Larry Ham Trio at their best.
Woody Witt – tenor saxophone, Larry Ham – piano, Lee Hudson – bass, Tom Melito – drums