Performer, composer and arranger finds a rising star in drummer Chris Massey & The NJP. The sophomore effort from Massey streets on May 7th and lays a solid foundation for Massey not only as a name to watch but as a legitimate jazz triple threat. From a deft touch to controlled sonic fury Massey and his band cover all their bases and place their own stamp on the sound of Blue Note and Impulse long before both labels essentially turned their back on straight ahead swing.
An eclectic mix of material runs from Jon Cowherd to John Coltrane with some Jeff "Tain" Watts and Rahsaan Roland Kirk tossed in for flavor. What makes Whosoever work so well is the ability of Massey and The NJP to shift dynamics on the fly without stripping the gears of the listener. The harmonious union of this quintet brings to mind the current Tom Harrell band which may arguably be the finest quintet on the scene today. Post and hard bop elements are married through the original compositions of Massey and were it not for a decent working knowledge of some of the covers here, telling the difference could prove to be a daunting task.
The cerebral intent of Massey is brought forth in intriguing compositions and arrangements including part of the jazz holy grail that is the John Coltrane composition "Giant Steps." Both the title track and "Onyx Guardian" are Massey tunes that are dynamic in presentation and deceptively subtle in performance. Adam Larson handles the tenor and soprano sax duties while Benny Benack III turns in a stellar performance on trumpet. The riff on "Giant Steps" is an odd metered gem dialed back slightly while Massey is in the pocket the entire trip. Larson does this tune more than incredible justice without mangling the original melody or going off on the self indulgent sonic road to nowhere. The Jeff "Tain" Watts tune "Return of the Jitney Man" is a syncopated exercise that confirms swing hard or go home! The walking bass line of Chris Talio adds just enough pop to compliment the hard driving Massey while pianist Willerm Delisfort distinguishes himself throughout this engaging release.
If old school is your wheelhouse there is simply not much to dislike here. A stellar effort from the new face of jazz finds Chris Massey & The NJP making their mark and they are certainly a force to be reckoned with in the future.
Tracks: Whosoever; Crooked; Giant Steps; Old Devil Moon; Warriors Three; Return of The Jitney Man; Onyx Guardian; Pedal Up.
Personnel: Adam Larson: tenor / soprano sax; Benny Benack III: trumpet; Willerm Delisfort: piano; Chris Talio: bass; Chris Massey: drums / compositions.
Special Thanks To Jim at Jazz Promo Services.