Those that travel in my culture inner circle, my jazz mafia if you will know that as a tenor player myself certain releases hit my sonic sweet spot and hit it hard. A veritable all star line up of saxophonists hook up with ace drummer Joe La Barbera, stellar bassist Tom Warrington and first call pianist Bill Cunliffe to do a fresh riff on some of the major forces that took refuge in the Ellington sax section over the years and these include Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster and Harry Carney to name but a few.
Capri Records who continues to impress has a street date set of Mark Masters Ensemble's Ellington Saxophone Encounters on August 21st. The sax section that helps bind this stellar release and inventive arrangements together include Gary Smulyan, Pete Christlieb, Gary Foster, Don Shelton and Gene Cipriano. The rhythm section seems to drive this formidable horn section to new heights of creativity and infuse that grip it and rip it mentality that takes what could be an ordinary cover record and elevate the finished project to a level of artistry that is seldom reached on an iconic discography that seems to have been captured in the studio in virtually every possible way and arrangement imaginable.
Master's is leading the charge as one of the great arrangers of our time as well as running the American Jazz Institute working to promote and advance jazz on a more global scale. Smulyan is simply a beast on baritone saxophone and proudly carries the title as winner of the prestigious 2011 DownBeat critics Poll and Jazz Times Readers and Critics Polls for baritone saxophone and oh yeah...I dig him too!
A musical happy place between large jazz ensemble and classic swing orchestra finds no missed steps along the way. An eclectic yet oddly familiar set of tunes highlighted by "Jeep's Blues" along with "Rockin' In Rhythm" and "Peaches" is pure entertainment every step of the way. Saxophone fans and Ellington fans should flock to this release in droves. This is pure grade A 100% old school jazz where the musicians do a more modern riff on where the development of these tunes might be today if some of the original cast of characters were still around.
Tracks: Esquire Swank; The Line Up; LB Blues; We're In Love Again; Ultra Blue; Used To Be Duke; Jeep's Blues; Get Ready; Love's Away; Rockin' N Rhythm; Peaches; The Happening.