Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bassist Ben Wolfe led a terrific quartet at the Greenwich Village club, Smalls, for some hot music recorded for the club’s SmallsLive label as part of its Live at Smalls series. Joining Wolfe were pianist Luis Perdomo, trumpeter Ryan Kisor, saxophonist Marcus Strickland and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. They are heard on nine originals by the leader who shows himself to be quite the composer as well as bassist.

There is an ambience of classic Blue Note sessions from the sixties from the opening Block which evokes some of the Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock Blue Note Recordings from when they were in Miles Davis’ band on which Freddie Hubbard replaced Miles. Some outstanding playing from Kisor followed by Perdomo on this and Wolfe and Hutchinson are terrific with Strickland playing with fire. For the Great Sonny Clark has a nice loping feel and a very appealing theme with Wolfe taking the initial solo, followed by Kisor’s in a brassy, melodic vein and then a short fiery burst from Strickland with Perdomo contrasting with fluent, lyrical playing. Telescope is another bouncy hard bop number which has Strickland taking the initial solo with some strong playing that exhibits his individualistic sound and his ability to craft a solo. After Kisor and Perdomo have their features, Hutchinson takes concise, and exciting, solo.

A short, lovely ballad I’ll Know You More, opens with Strickland stating the theme displaying a warmth in contrast to more aggressive playing elsewhere as Hutchinson’s cymbals accent his deliberate playing. Czech Mate displays a Thelonious Monk flavor as Kisor and Strickland (employing the bottom register of the tenor) state the theme and Wolfe takes successive choruses before the horns take this out. Coleman Cab opens with a lengthy bass solo prior to the full band entering with interesting horn voicings and an outstanding solo from Perdomo.

The Trade, a brief duet between Wolfe and Hutchinson, is the final selection that concludes this superb recording. This is a recording I have been listening to repeatedly over the past couple weeks and one I am sure I will be returning to in the future. One can purchase this from SmallsLive directly as a CD or just a download (CD purchases include downloads) or from other vendors.

This was a purchase. Here is Ben Wolfe as a member of a different, but terrific, band.

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