An '87 recording of prototype Ponder; soul jazz and blues played with energy and a slick, yet resourceful conviction. Ponder has never gotten the profile or the exposure he deserves; he doesn't use gimmicks or crank up the volume, but his tasty fills, clever riffs, and crisp, bluesy solos are always worthwhile.
On his seventh date as a leader, trumpeter Wallace Roney is clearly shaking the comparisons to Miles Davis, even while covering some of the same ground as the late jazz legend. Backed by his talented wife, Geri Allen (who is a gifted composer and adventurous bandleader herself), bassist Christian McBride, and first-call drummer Kenny Washington, Roney's fresh look at Davis' "Solar" is well worth investigating, while the spirited rendition of Charlie Parker's "Ah-Leu-Cha" features Washington driving the leader and guest tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, while adding some wild arco bass by McBride.
Vibraphonist Dave Pike's debut for Muse (which has been reissued on CD) has generally strong individual playing although the material (five group originals plus a brief version of the bop standard "Wee") and use of electronics sound a bit dated. Pike teams up with keyboardist Tom Ranier (who also plays some alto and tenor), guitarist Ron Eschete, either Luther Hughes or Harvey Newmark on bass, drummer Ted Hawke and (on three of the six numbers) guitarist Kenny Burrell. Nothing all that memorable occurs during this lesser effort.
These elements [i.e. a rather zany sense of homour and an oblique, Monk-like compositional sense, which often makes use of folk and popular elements in a highly original way] are in place again on Out Of The Tradition. Walrath opens "Out Of This World" with a strange North African scale and non-tempered sounds blown on a detached trumpet mouthpiece. There are hints of Coltrane's version in what follows, but they are used as stepping stones, not as a final destination. Walrath has located his playing outside the tradition and is constantly working towards points of departure. That is dramatized in Mingus's "So Long, Eric," on which Coryell and Green play a large part, and it comes across in the cod Bach of "Wake Up And Wash It Off," a pun too complicated to merit unpicking here. Walrath's now regular Pops feature comes on "Cabin In The Sky," one of his best recent performances, and he then drops back into gentler mode for "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You." It's done no harm to doff the cap-and-bells for a while; this is a terrific jazz album.
Jack Walrath and his Masters of Suspense turn to an idiom that was once among jazz's more popular, but in recent years has been almost ignored – funk/soul-jazz. Besides a decent remake of James Brown's "Get On The Good Foot," the group opens with "Anya And Liz On The Veranda" and also does Charles Mingus' "Better Get Hit In Your Soul." Walrath's trumpet and flugelhorn horn solos are always intense and occasionally exciting; only the Brown remake falters, mainly because it was a textbook funk piece and doesn't translate well to a straight instrumental setting. Otherwise, the Masters of Suspense do a good job of displaying their soul-jazz chops.
A later set from Shirley Scott, but one that's recorded with an old school lineup that includes Art Harper on bass and Mickey Roker on drums – plus some guest tenor work from the mighty Buck Hill! The tunes are a lot more open and fluid than Scott's sound on Prestige in the 60s – with a bit of the vibe she picked up during her 70s years, as she really started to loosen up from before. And although the tunes are mostly familiar numbers, this approach really changes them up – moving them farther from the standard ballad mode of earlier Scott albums. Shirley plays piano on one track – "Yours Is My Heart Alone" – and all others feature organ, on titles that include "Skylark", "Triste", "More Than You Know", "Blues For Groove", and "Have You Met Miss Jones."
Pat Martino excited the jazz community with his exciting reentry into the scene in 1987 with his live recording, The Return. He surprised more than a few by demonstrating such impressive taste and technique, almost as if he had never lost the ability to play the guitar due to a severe brain aneurysm. Perhaps almost as surprising was his disappearance once again from the public eye (due to his parents' illnesses), until he reemerged with this recording in 1994. Here, Martino is teamed with pianist James Ridl, whom he happened upon in a Philadelphia club. Martino was so impressed and inspired that he invited the pianist to form a musical partnership.
Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard gained his initial recognition for his playing in avant-garde and adventurous settings. By the late 80s, Hoggard had decided to explore hard bop and straight-ahead jazz. On this out of print but worthy CD, the vibraphonist recalls Bobby Hutcherson and Milt Jackson in spots, swinging on a variety of originals, Stevie Wonder's "You And I" and "Sonny's Themes" (which covers Sonny Rollins' "Alfie" and "Sonnymoon for Two"). The young Benny Green is a major asset on piano, bassist Marcus McLaurine and drummer Yoron Israel are excellent in support, and Hoggard's songs are full of variety and color.