Al Maniscalcp, saxophones; Dairue Scott, piano; Eric Kennedy, drums; Jef Reed, bass
Maniscalco's quartet set a rather high bar for themselves on this CD in the opening of the old Lane/Harburg morsel "If This Isn't Love" by dipping into the early Coltrane Quartet "meditation"-type opening we recall so well from "Spiritual" and "Welcome," et al: the sax ruminates under a whistle of cymbals and short snare rolls, the piano and bass lifting above; when they downshift into the tune proper it proves to be a worthwhile gambit even if it might appear afterwards that the gravitas given the moment may not entirely have been earned. If it works in real time, why not? And this is very much a "real-time" document, as the gig, an outdoor concert, is offered here in its entirety minus stage announcements, sound system flubs left in. "Inspiration," a Maniscalco original, also nods to Coltrane's arrangement of "My Favorite Things" in its dancing cymbals and bouncy minimalist piano chords. Al M. on alto has a tart tone reminding me of British giant Elton Dean, though unlike Dean Mr. Maniscalco will not go "out" without major impetus. So if it's Elton's Newsense or Just Us that you like, this may be a bit too "in" for your taste. Jeff Reed's bass is simple but not simplistic, putting me in mind of Eugene Wright or Ben Riley, especially during "What a Difference a Day Made." On that one Maniscalco switches to tenor and essays a sweetness of tone that goes way back to Lester Young. This comes even more into bas-relief on a lush Al M. original, "Alicia" (it's a tone parallel to another chestnut, though I can't think which. But the puzzling is half the fun), and here I finally get a bead on pianist Darius Scott. It's not like he hasn't been effective overall, but his solo's first phrases so strongly recall Red Garland, I just have to smile. Cool! "I Concentrate on You " and "I'll Be Seeing You" complete the set, both swinging largely thanks to drummer Eric Kennedy. He's a superb cymbal colorist who, during an intricate series of ostinatos by Maniscalco in "Inspiration," comes into his own with some nice Billy Higgings-like moves.
Ralph Gleason's dicta on a live recording is, do you wish you had been there? Yeah, definitely, as long as my kids didn't force me to ride the rollercoaster.
by Ken Egbert
Jazz Now Interactive
Copyright Jazz Now, October 2002 issue, all rights reserved