Twenty-four-year-old Brendan Romaneck was a saxophonist and composer of enormous promise as he prepared for his debut recording as a leader in the Spring of 2005. Romaneck had already made all the arrangements for the success of “Coming Together,” having booked a studio, prepared the compositions and selected a group of talented players – trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Keith Javors, bassist Delbert Felix and drummer John Davis -- to help him bring his music to life. Then on April 20, 2005, just two weeks after his 24th birthday and less than two months before the scheduled recording, Brendan Romaneck was taken tragically and suddenly, ending what was already becoming an impressive career as a jazz artist. Romaneck’s parents -- who were the date’s executive producers -- decided to continue the project as a tribute to their son’s music. Javors engaged Chris Potter and Steve Wilson to play the saxophone parts and the resulting music – full of originality, promise and strength, heralding the coming of an important new composer -- is something that Romaneck, his family and friends can all be proud of.
Romaneck, who was born April 6, 1981 in Colchester, Connecticut, set out on the life path of a musician from his early days of grammar school when he first began playing tenor saxophone and decided to pursue the career professionally even before graduating from high school. After studies at Santa Barbara City College, he entered the prestigious jazz program at the University of North Florida, where he took saxophone with the legendary Bunky Green, who noted, “ He was very original and he had a great big heart and that came through in his music … We call it soul and Brendan he had that.” At UNF, Romaneck also studied composition with the highly lauded Keith Javors, in whom the young saxophonist found both a mentor and colleague, playing with the pianist’s groups around the Southeast. Not surprisingly, Romaneck called upon Javors to produce his debut recording.
The original compositions on “Coming Together” are a moving expression of Romaneck’s burgeoning abilities as a composer, while his choice of standards is a sure indication of his grasp of his role in maintaining and advancing the jazz tradition in which he was beginning to take his place. With producer Javors at the piano, Delbert Felix on bass and John Davis behind the drum kit, the music swings with power and originality.
The quartet selections that make up the first half of the date, with Potter on tenor and soprano saxes, reveal a remarkable maturity and a harmonic sensibility that results in a wide ranging expressiveness that belies the youthful years behind the writing. Potter’s tenor reading of “My Shining Hour” that opens the disc is full of Rollinsesque strength and his soprano recital of “Nancy With The Laughing Face” is lovely in its Tranish romanticism, but it’s Romaneck’s pieces, the innately beautiful “Dream Behind Winter” and “Full Moon,” the intelligent complexity of “3 Steps Ahead of the Spider” and the stirringly soulful “You’ll Never Know” that leave their mark on the listener, letting us know that a truly exceptional talent has been lost.
The date’s second half demonstrates Romaneck’s writing for jazz quintet, with trumpeter Terell Stafford and saxophonist Steve Wilson forming the front line that lays down the composer’s wonderfully melodic lines and evocative harmonies with appealing aplomb. Stafford, who had spoken regularly with Romaneck in preparation for the date, notes, “All of his writing is really what he heard and what he felt … I think he really wrote for the guys he chose for this record. You could kind of hear his voice inside of the music, which I thought was special …” Stafford and Wilson’s exemplary work in performing the oft-times difficult music that Romaneck left for them to record is a tribute to both their talent and the composer’s ability to bring out the best in his fellow musicians and it would not be surprising to see his pieces ”The Vibe,” “Minion,” “11-02,” and the title track “Coming Together” show up on future recordings by these and other artists.
In speaking of the emotion of recording “Coming Together” Stafford says, “This young man had a huge impact; his presence and his musicality really impacted a community and a community of musicians who didn’t even know him.” Bunky Green, who did know him, says of the saxophonist, “He was just starting to bloom … There was a lot of potential there. A lot of potential.” Thanks to the efforts of the family and friends of Brendan Romaneck listeners can at least get a taste on “Coming Together” of what might have been.