There are and always will be pretenders to the empty thrones left behind by such past luminaries as Ellington, Mingus, Coleman Hawkins, Monk, and all those other names I seem incapable of forgetting to drop in every Jazz Now review I write. But some prefer the middle way (no, not more!), plowing furrows explored but not entirely by others.
Perry Conticchio (tenor and soprano saxes) comes off as a journeyman in the Hank Mobley, Dexter Gordon, Frank Wess tradition, and his quartet (Rod Richardson, guitar; Andy Cox, acoustic bass; Lawrence Dean, drums) will swing you even if you have more left feet than most herds of elephants.
"Midnight Rain," a Perry C. original, is a big, expansive, slow bounce with a certain regretful larghetto feel; listen closely for all the mystery quotes Mr. PC weaves into the melody. Richardson lays out here in favor of Wayne Wilentz, whose kindhearted approach to the piano recalls late Tyner.
Conticchio's tone is big and friendly; one can see him taking Sonny's place on that famous bridge (it was a while ago), serenading the girders and the passing semis. One trusts the man's talent immediately because it doesn't clout you; the large tone aside, there's a certain 'Let me tell you something interesting' going on. Very important to those of us who do not want our art spoon-fed to us.
Anyway, when "Midnight Rain" raises the temperature a hair in the middle bit, Dean opens up on a cymbal ride one can't help but nod appreciably to; in contrast, Cox essays some guitar-like comping under Mr. PC's second solo leading into the fade. Very nice.
The redoubtable Vernon Duke's "I Can't Get Started," the only chestnut in this bag, is almost completely reimagined (I do hear all the right chords, but that's about it) to cheerful effect, while another Conticchio original, "PO's Blues" (no blues I can hear, but I'm having too good a time to call him on that) borrows a minor march on the roots to that old Jack Jones hit, "Wives and Lovers" (you remember that one if you are of a Certain Age: "Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your makeup/ soon he will open the door..."), most of which I can't quote any longer because, er, it's from what they used to call 'another time.'
Conticchio switches to soprano and clears the Dex (so to speak), Richardson twangs a conservative 'big-band' strum line but for his own forward-thinking break, and Dean takes the lead for a diverting twenty-four bars of his own. Sam Rivers' fleet-footed 'Fuschia Swing Song" dances as close to free bop as anything here, but in a mere 1:42 the quartet serve notice that they could get into downtown territory if they so desired.
Probably you know if you will like this already. Even if you aren't sure, I recommend it.
By Ken Egbert
Copyright Jazz Now, September 2005, all rights reserved.
Jazz Now Interactive September 2005 Vol 15 No. 5 - Table of Contents