Fred Randolph/ Learning Curve
By Michael Handler, Writer Jazz Now
This CD is very good, but it's better on the second listening. The maturity of the writing and accomplished playing of the musicians really comes through. What one also hears is the diversity; Fred has pulled from a variety of genres to produce a very listenable production. It's great to hear Fred play both acoustic and electric fretless, as he does so nimbly on the Weather Report inspired "Secret Garden". Yes, there are shades of Jaco here, but Fred is very much his own man on electric bass.
The CD opens with an Afro-Latin chant-like piece dedicated to Michael Brecker called "I Wonder Why". It's a great vehicle for tenor sax player Rob Roth to dig in and have at it. The Latin feeling continues on the next track, "Windward Style", although in a more restrained manner. But it's the ballads on the date that really caught my ears, as in the case with Churchy Tune, The Longest Time, and Pua Lilia, where Fred's acoustic sound blends wonderfully with Art Hirahara. (The art of the duo is back, folks...).
For pure fun, my actual favorite track on the CD is the previously mentioned "Secret Garden"; with the addition of Bryan Bowman's tabla and Michael Zilber's great soprano sax work (a la Wayne Shorter), the tune moves at a quick pace and is fun to try to count.
The group works well as an ensemble, with good solo opportunities for all involved. The writing is first class, the tributes to Mingus and Coltrane heartfelt, and the CD has an overall feel that Fred Randolph is well along on his personal learning curve.