Monday, November 03, 2014

Russ Johnson - Still Out to Lunch (Enja, 2014)

The great jazz musician Eric Dolphy is justly remembered as an extraordinary instrumentalist, playing alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute in a unique and unprecedented manner. But he was also an excellent composer of knotty and memorable melodies, especially on his universally acknowledged masterpiece Out To Lunch. It is the melodic content of this great album that is the inspiration for the interpretations by Russ Johnson on trumpet, Myra Melford on piano, Roy Nathanson on saxophone, Brad Jones on bass, and George Schuller on drums. It is interesting to hear Myra Melford trying to take on the roll that vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson held on the original LP. On the Thelonious Monk tribute "Hat and Beard" she brings a very interesting viewpoint, using her own considerable skill to make for an arresting performance. Johnson takes the lead on melodic "Something Sweet, Something Tender" playing in both a punchy and thoughtful manner. The complex Dolphy composition "Out To Lunch" is one of the highlights of the album, making space for Jones to anchor the music while Schuller makes the most of the march rhythm of the original recording. Dolphy's flute feature "Gazzeloni" is moved into a different direction with swirling trumpet and saxophone and muscular bass powering the performance along. This album worked really well, demonstrating the enduring beauty of Eric Dolphy's music, while allowing these talented musicians to make their own mark. Still Out to Lunch -

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