Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Ethan Iverson - Bud Powell In The 21st Century (Sunnyside Records, 2021)

Pianist and composer Bud Powell was a leading member of bebop revolution which shook jazz from in mid 1940's and beyond. Ethan Iverson developed an appreciation of his material through CD re-issues on Blue Note and Verve, and has written extensively about Powell on his website Do the Math. For his first attempt at arranging for big band, Iverson received a commission from the 2019 Umbria Jazz Festival to present his Powell Tribute Project for the core quintet of Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, Dayna Stephens on tenor saxophone, Ben Street on bass and Lewis Nash on drums, aided and abetted by the Umbria Jazz Orchestra. The band and large horn section are well integrated and comfortable with the material as evidenced with "Celia," which swings nicely with a keen set of solos for trumpet, and tenor saxophone and "Tempus Fugit" which is hot with swirling cascades of piano and steaming trumpet combined with boiling bass and drums push it all forward. The theme of "Bouncin’ With Bud" struts proudly into the fray with a fine medium up-tempo arrangement, focused on the wonderful melody. Stephens' tenor saxophone and Jensen's trumpet embellish upon the theme quite nicely. "Wail" is a short and sweet performance, with a fast and tight arrangement, and a deft saxophone solo over strong piano, along side bass and drums accompaniment. After a skillful and quick trumpet solo, Iverson plays well over elastic bass and drums. Between many of the Powell compositions there are interweaved "Five Simple Spells, Parts 1-5," short brass arrangements and interludes that are well written and arranged. The fluidity of the ensemble playing on "Dance of the Infidels" works well to create an accessible mid tempo piece, anchored by graceful piano. The well known classic "Fifty Second Street Theme" is played with great energy and a witty arrangement. There is a generous saxophone solo present, with trumpet taking off soon after as rock solid bass underpins it all. Fast and exciting piano trio section comes to the fore, rippling with a fast light touch. The French horn of Umbria Jazz Orchestra member Giovanni Hoffer is simply extraordinary on "I’ll keep Loving You," playing a beautiful solo that unfolds from an unaccompanied  opening into a larger arrangement, unfolding like a rare and precious flower. This album worked quite well, Powell's music can be tricky, but Iverson's deep knowledge and respect for the compositions ensures that the arrangements are logical and open for solo space. The musicians in the band take advantage of this, playing very well and adding color and depth to the music, as does the high quality orchestra. Bud Powell In The 21st Century - amazon.com

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