When our simian ancestors boldly descended from their arboreal condos to explore the persuasive charms of terra firma, they invented, first the wheel and second, the sackbut; forerunner of the wind-powered, slide activated, embouchure-modulated Pitch Appromimator. I.e., the Slide Trombone. An unwieldy concatenation of hollow vines, gourds, and conch shells, it was 17 feet long and weighed in at four T-Rex incisors. Paleontologists surmise that it's function was to attract mates. It failed.
History also reveals that, a few months later and concurrent with the birth of Satchmo, the third innovation- the trumpet- succeeded beyond the caveman's most fanciful dreams. Which is why, even today, trumpet players sit on the top risers and get all the chicks. Trombonists, wisely hidden from view, were placed in the middle of the ensemble and have learned to content themselves by suggesting to the vocalist which note might best distinguish her entrance.
Invention Number Four; the Saxophone, evolved when an inquisitive member of the clan discovered that if one were to puff mightily through a length of straight albeit worm-holed vine discarded by a sackbut builder, one could produce a sound that would frighten the wolves away from the fire. It was called it a 'Cornet' until a trumpet player observed: "The name's been taken, Ogster. 'Cornet' is what we call a hormonally-disadvantaged trumpet. Call it 'Clarinet,' Man." Not wishing to piss off the trumpet player, whose leavings provided the rest of the tribe with chicks, he wisely acquiesced. Later, somebody bent 'em up and covered them with gold paint to match the trumpets. A caveman-cum-critic reportedly mused, "Close the Patent Office. It'll never get any better than this."
The strong-arm goons, called "Band Leaders," in an effort to obscure the trombonists from view, shoehorned the saxophone players into the front row, each heavy-laden with their sopranos, altos, tenors, and baris. And flutes and oboes and bassoons and other stuff, with their reeds soaking in a gin-filled gourd filled because, saxophonists swore, "it makes everything sound better towards the end of the gig." Early sax sections also provided visual interest for those in the audience that found themselves easily bored.
But, lo! In the Twelfth Century B.C., two remarkable and synchronous events occurred: Charlie Parker and Carl Fontana were born fully-grown with their respective axes firmly in hand. They sprang to the front of the band, never to leave. Their ancestors, Frank Rosolino, Bill Watrous, Kevin Stout and Bob McChesney... Cannonball, Pres, Phil Woods, and Brian Booth, kept the faith.
Thus, when- in 2002- tenor man Brian Booth and trombonist Kevin Stout released their first CD; Good Pals (Jazzed5 Records), it quickly shot to the Top 25. Our reaction to the Good Pals' rocket was less "How nice" and more "What took so long?" It remains a welcome and important addition to the literature of Mainstream and, crafty devils that they are, Messrs. Stout and Booth left us wanting... No, demanding... more.
Released in July, 2003, their second collaboration puts to rest the notion that Good Pals would be an impossible act to follow. The duo is supported by returning Rhythmeisters Joey Singer, (p); Tom Warrington, (b); and John Abraham, (d) whose collective passion and sense of time seems to have grown from the same seed.
Up Jazz Creek begins with Sleepwalker; an 8:40 foray into Medium Bounce Delightsville over the changes to "You Stepped Out Of A Dream." The front line takes the head, followed by unrestrained, romping soli from Stout, Singer, Booth, and the nimble and ever-tasty Tom Warrington on the Stand-Up. Sleepwalker sets the sprightly, joyous tone for this date. If Stout and Booth have a few bytes of goodness in their hearts and a few Gigs of bandwidth on their servers, they'll put a little taste of this track on their website; www.jazzed5.com.
We were in attendance at a pre-release concert that included some of tunes on this CD. When they announced "Thermal Inversion" we smirked inwardly: "HA! You can't fool us with that tissue of obfuscation. You're gonna blow the changes of "Too Darn Hot" or "Heat Wave," aren't you?" "A Foggy Day" was their infinitely better choice. This flood of Caribbean sunshine quickly melts the mist. It's a weatherproof showcase for nimble, extended musings of Stout, Booth, and Singer followed by Warrington and Abraham tastily trading eights.
When you're listening to "Astral Address," think of that timeless and storied jazz standard, The East Of The Sun-West Of The Moon Waltz. I'm not kidding. How nice, though, to drop one's heel on One and pat on Two and Three. It's refreshing to hear the 3/4 approach to a old musical friend. Stout is at his lyrical best.
"Hurry Up and Weight," an up-tempo burner with rock solid unison work by the front line, is a vehicle through which pianist Joey Singer can stretch some. He tickles, nudges, slams, and slathers great walls of sound into his choruses. They could stand alone. Singer soundly reaffirms his preeminence as an adroit and gifted musician.
Booth's 23-minute suite that gives this CD its title, begins with a 1:36 prologue that evokes the idyllic tranquility that comes while drifting, with a line in the water, in a soft-flowing stream. "Up" is a kicker that gives the soloists some room to cast. "Jazz Creek," Latin-tinged, laid-back, and lyrical is sublime in it's freedom and with exquisite, flowing readings by the principals. The third Movement, "Without A Paddle," is one in which I expected to hear the players laughing out loud. Full of happy surprises, it comprises the Suite.
The last chart on the date is "I'm Old Fashioned." Joey Singer's rubato intro yields to Booth's elegantly understated reading of the head under which is Stout's unabashedly loving and respectful tribute to Carl Fontana. In a laid-back groove, this loveable old chestnut has been freshened-up and burnished to a golden gloss. While there are no particular moments that simultaneously raise your eyebrows and tighten your sphincter, it's a supremely relaxed and mellow treatment that bears repeating on future outings.
Mercifully bereft of the cackles, groans, and flatulence that characterized our simian ancestors' first forays into music (and, alas, adjudicated today by undiscerning ears as being a new, hip thing), Up Jazz Creek has schooched the bar by which we measure Straight Ahead Jazz up a notch.
Having heard the Stout-Booth collaboration in concert, we are left with the opinion that the perfection of this CD comes from the fact that it's not perfect ...with every note digitally mixed to mediocrity ...every nuance and crescendo electronically massaged to lifeless banality. It's not been over-produced to soullessness. Up Jazz Creek comes as close to capturing the energy; the audience-artist interplay of a live performance as when we sat, with jug and picnic basket, on the gently sloping grass of an outdoor amphitheater basking in the salubrious warmth of a Las Vegas evening and the synergism crafted by five extraordinary musicians.
We confidently predict that Up Jazz Creek will return Jazzed5 to their well-deserved niche in the Top 25.
Kevin Stout, Trombone; Brian Booth, Tenor Sax; Joey Singer, Piano; Tom Warrington, Bass; John Abraham, Drums
Review by Richard Hauge