That hard bop lives is not in dispute; a quartet or a quintet is a lot easier to travel with than an orchestra (ask William Parker some time), and they can play smaller clubs. Sorry to put it in so bald a set of terms, but the concern exists. Last night I was watching Martin Scorcese's wonderful, sepia-toned film NEW YORK, NEW YORK and noted how the Robert de Niro character's aggressive tenor saxophone style - practically made for a quintet! Paul Gonsalves his 'Jimmy Doyle' wasn't - meshed only at an angle to the larger, more arranged 'big bands' his character attempted to join. De Niro's character in the movie marked the beginning of the end of the big traveling orchestras, and a wilder, less disciplined (and thus more adventurous in a different way) form's birth. Economics always play a part, whether we want them to or not.
Naturally, by and large everything grows an orthodoxy, though; even hard bop. So how to keep it fresh in the can? So to speak. Maurice Brown does very nicely here, taking his cue from somewhere to the left of Clifford Brown and has grown a friendly, machine-tooled approach that works well at most any speed. What's his secret? Hard work. No, you won't mistake this for a Grachan Moncur III release from the 1960s, but it's all originals, all singing, all dancing, no secrets. Some properly odd-sounding electric "wah" attachments slather the title ditty, for example, and Doug Bickel's easy-flipping electric piano washes in and out with no small allure, but wisely Brown saves the funk quote for the secondary theme, not the primary, and by the time you hear it, it's a dandy little surprise and not a yawn. Very cool. Bickel leaps out of the gate as would your favorite racehorse come the piano bit in "Look Ma No Hands," while Derek Douget sinks his tenor deep between the careful listener's ears in any number of places hereupon. I'll give highest marks to him on the closing "Call for All Angels," a Mingus like ballad with a long, cantilevered melody line. His drifting yet intense entry back into the theme is a treat. Most honorable mention must also go to Jason Stewart's tireless, busy bass and Adonis Rose's very unadorned but exactly right drumming. I even liked it when he kept straight time!
No, not a flub anywhere on HIP TO BOP. Which we always knew it was, but thanks for reminding us, Mr. Brown. Get this.
by Kenneth Egbert