Sunday, April 24, 2011

Terell Stafford - This Side of Strayhorn (MaxJazz, 2011)

The great composer, arranger and pianist Billy Strayhorn’s compositions were a staple of the Duke Ellington songbook and remain a great inspiration to modern jazz musicians. Trumpeter Terell Stafford presents his view of some of the more well known compositions on this album where he is accompanied by Tim Warfield on tenor saxophone, Bruce Barth on piano, Peter Washington on bass and Dana Hall on drums. The musicians are comfortable at many different tempos like the the lilting and haunting “Day Dream”, which is taken as a duet for piano and trumpet. The dreamy landscape is articulated through patient and thoughtful improvising from both musicians. “Lana Turner” has a languid tempo, patient and un-hurried. Warfield is featured on a slow after-hours type saxophone solo that suits him well. One of Strayhorn’s most famous compositions, “Lush Life”, has slow and almost vaporous trumpet over a bed of piano chords, while brushes gently keep time. The music is efficient at brisk speed as well, one of the highlights of the album is “Johnny Come Lately”, which is re-made as storming hard-bop. The music on this performance has a driving beat from the rhythm section and a string of excellent solos from trumpet and saxophone. “Raincheck” has fast saxophone and trumpet trading passages before Stafford takes command for a bright and agile solo turn. Fast, nimble saxophone and rippling piano complete a fine performance. While some of the performances, especially the ballads, stretched on a bit too long (a little bit of judicious editing couldn’t have hurt) overall this was a solid nod to one of jazz’s finest composers. The musicians are very talented and play quite well, and fans of mainstream jazz should be please by this outing. This Side of Strayhorn - amazon.com

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