Liner notes by Roger Atkinson:
Like most instruments, the baritone saxophone has a strong legacy in jazz history. Musicians such as Harry Carney, Gerry Mulligan, Serge Chaloff, Cecil Payne, Nick Brignola, Pepper Adams, Scott Robinson, and Gary Smulyan have all developed the horn into a nimble, expressive solo instrument.
These great musicians provide the legacy for younger musicians to draw from as they develop their own marks on the music. Frank Basile is a prime example. Frank was a fan of the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra (now the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra) while in high school in Omaha, Nebraska. Pepper Adams was the baritone player in the band's first decade. The chair has belonged to Gary Smulyan the past three decades. In recent years Frank has had a sublease on the chair as Smulyan's current teaching duties preclude him from regularly getting to the Vanguard on Monday nights.
It was on these Mondays at the Vanguard that I became a Frank Basile fan. Playing in this band had been a dream of his since high school and through his years at the University of North Texas. He is indeed carrying on the Adams – Smulyan tradition on Monday nights (as well as making his mark in the big bands of Jon Faddis, Joe Chambers, Jimmy Heath, and Bob Mintzer, and the small groups of Richie Vitale and others).
For his third release Frank has assembled some of the finest players who he has collaborated with in New York over the past decade. I recently got to hear trumpeter Fabien Mary in his current hometown of Paris; it was some of the best playing I've heard in years. Fabien was born in 1978 (the same year as Frank), and quickly established himself on the Paris scene after moving there at the age of 20. He moved to New York in 2008, returning to Paris in the fall of 2011. He has recorded extensively, including four dates as a leader. His latest, Quartet + One, includes Basile as the "one." His long melodic lines may remind one of some of his favorites such as Chet Baker and Blue Mitchell. "I met Fabien in December 2006 when I was playing in Caen, a town in Normandy, with the Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band," Frank says. "After the gig, some of us went to sit in at the jam session at Camion Jazz which is an amazing jazz club housed in an empty semi trailer in the middle of a field. I first heard Fabien there and I was an instant fan. Since then, I've had the pleasure of doing two tours of France with him and his working quartet."
Washington, D.C. native Alex Hoffman has been in New York since 2005, where he has also played in the Jimmy Heath Big Band as well as with Brian Lynch and others. Frank knows him from gigs around New York. "Whenever he plays, I say to myself, 'Why didn't I think of that?'" The tenor saxophonist has recorded his first CD as a leader, Dark Lights. Like Basile and Mary, his playing is astute while pulling no punches.
The rhythm section has similar tenure on the New York music scene. Drummer Pete Van Nostrand was born in Binghamton, New York, has been around NYC since 2000, and has played with Kenny Barron, Brian Lynch, Jimmy Heath, and Kurt Elling. Pianist Ehud Asherie was born in Israel in 1979, and lived in Italy before moving to New York when he was nine. Much of his musical education occurred at Smalls when he was in his teens. He continues to play at Smalls, and has performed with the bands of Joe Cohn, Peter Bernstein, Joe Magnarelli, Jane Monheit, and many others. His recordings include two led by Grant Stewart, and his own most recent releases are Organic and the solo outing Welcome to New York. Bassist David Wong is a New York City native. He and Frank first met in 2001 when both were at Juilliard. He was with Eric Reed in 2003 and 2004, and in recent years has been part of the Roy Haynes and Heath Brothers groups, and is the regular bassist in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.
These musicians share a respect for the mainstream jazz tradition that continues to excite listeners and attract talented young musicians to a music that has been dominant since decades before they were born. They're also dedicated to move the music forward with their improvisations and fresh approaches to standard repertoire and their own (in this case Frank's) compositions. Frank's horn arrangements have that classic sound, too; I hear strains of Tadd Dameron, Shorty Rogers, and Horace Silver throughout.
The "classics" presented here cover a broad spectrum. "João" is by Clare Fischer, a canny bossa nova dedication. "Venita's Dance" is from Kenny Dorham's classic Afro Cuban. That recording used the same instrumentation, so Frank transcribed the original arrangement for this session. "The Gypsy" has been played by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and Quincy Jones, but Frank prefers a recording by Sonny Stitt with Oscar Peterson and another by the Ink Spots; he plays this ballad with just the rhythm section. "Project S" is one of Jimmy Heath's many great lines, and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" is an up-tempo arrangement that Frank has written and revised over the past few years.
Frank's tunes fit in like hand in glove. "The High Desert," titled after a recent trip to Joshua Tree, sounds like a line that would fit a Woody Shaw or Joe Henderson band. Listen how Mary's horn lifts the ensemble here on the theme. "Fountain City Bounce" was named after a recent Kansas City-based tour of the Midwest, and was inspired by the writing on the 1962 Impulse! record, Count Basie and the Kansas City 7. The fleet "Modern Inventions" is named for a favorite Donald Duck cartoon that Frank used to enjoy with his dad.
If one needed evidence that jazz was in good hands, this Frank Basile Sextet should provide all the proof that is needed.
Roger Atkinson, Editor, JAM Magazine, Kansas City