Mark Masters: Gary Foster (alto flute, alto saxophone); Don Shelton (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone); Bob Carr (bass clarinet, baritone saxophone); John Mitchell (bassoon, tenor saxophone); Oliver Lake (alto saxophone); Tim Hagans (trumpet); Dave Carpenter (bass guitar); Peter Erskine (drums).
Personnel: Scott Englebright, Les Lovitt (trumpet); Stephanie O'Keefe (French horn); Dave Woodley, Les Benedict (trombone); Charlie Morillas (bass trombone); Milcho Leviev, Cecilia Coleman (piano).
Audio Mixers: Talley Sherwood; Mark Masters.
Liner Note Authors: Peter Erskine; Tim Hagans.
Recording information: Firehouse Recording Studios, Pasadena, CA (09/29/2006).
Photographers: Ron Teeples; Peter Erskine.
Mark Masters has arranged many projects in conceptual jazz clothes, inspired by various themes such as the music of Porgy and Bess, Gil Evans, Clifford Brown, Gary McFarland, and Jimmy Knepper. For this recording, Masters is not so much concentrating on charts as organizing and blending a band and using its individual voices to bolster selected soloists in tribute to the late progressive tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman. Where the focus is meted out in Redman's compositions, this is not a band that wants to sound like he did, but instead pays tribute with loving displays of his work expanded from small ensemble to orchestra, but not necessarily orchestrated. Alto saxophonist Oliver Lake and trumpeter Tim Hagans are the principal soloists, with Lake's on-the-edge sharp-toned horn and the witty, versatile, and deep-toned brass of Hagans emulating Redman's unique voicings. Many lesser-known performers are included, as well as famed ensemble and big-band accompanists -- in particular drummer Peter Erskine, pianist Cecilia Coleman, saxophonist Gary Foster, and bassist Dave Carpenter -- but all take a back seat to richly praise Redman musically. Of the best pieces Masters has chosen, "Dewey's Tune" (from the first Old and New Dreams recording for the Black Saint label) originally featured drummer Ed Blackwell filling in the cracks of an Ornette Coleman-inspired sparse, bright melody, and is expanded here in a counterpointed, faithful swing groove with Erskine acting as the flexible caulk. "Thren" is viable and memorable, alternating choppy and swinging, unusual note progressions. "Joie de Vivre" was done by Redman in midtempo, but here it is slowed in ballad form, with parallel melody figures from "Prelude to a Kiss." Always showing his Texas blues roots, Redman wrote the very slow "Boody," loaded up with piano from guest Milcho Leviev over the sweet 'n' sour horns. "Transits" has Lake and Hagans stretching out in a free and organic funk-calypso via the best arrangement from Masters, "Sitatunga" echoes a film noir theme of intrigue and discerning swing, while a three-three-two bar rhythm change on "Love Is" in a free ballad base shows how unpredictable sustained romance can be. The most developed piece is "I-Pimp," utilizing shout choruses in the main line as Lake and Erskine sever the band in duo, then trio form with a Hagans solo cuing a decomposed, broken-down idea. There are other improvised pieces, atypical for Masters, that indicate he is more than happy to let loose of the reins, allowing these players to actually play and provide their own individually fused elegies for Redman. Drummer Matt Wilson, who performed with Redman for 12 years, does not appear on the recording, but wrote heartfelt and insightful liner notes that tell a tale all their own. It seems all of the recordings led by Mark Masters hold a compelling, intelligent design and originality beyond most contemporary arrangers, just shy of Maria Schneider. This salute to Dewey Redman ranks highly and should be a favorite for many progressive jazz heads. ~ Michael G. Nastos
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