“It’s not about me. It’s about the music,” says Roger Humphries. “I’ve had the idea to do this album for a long time. It was just a matter of getting the right tunes and the right flow.” The album is entitled “Keep the Faith” and appropriately reflects Roger’s deep and abiding respect for the musical gift he has and his ability to share that gift with others. His name and his musical reputation as a national and international icon are why we as a listening audience or fellow musicians understand Roger when he says, “It’s about the music.”
Keep the Faith provides us with a fresh and spontaneous journey, as demonstrated in Stanley Clarke’s Why Wait?. Dwayne Dolphin opens the track with a basso continuo that gives way to a haunting theme by Lou Stellute’s tenor and James Moore’s trumpet.
Dad illustrates Roger’s influence on our young and emerging musicians. This very powerful and sensitive piece was penned by George Heid III in honor of his father George Heid Sr. Young George, an outstanding drummer, has proven that if you stay focused and work hard, you will have positive results. It doesn’t hurt to have Roger (also affectionately referred to as Dad by a generation of Pittsburgh musicians) as your teacher. In addition, young George cherishes the unwavering support provided by his father and Roger. Listen to the intense piano performance by yet another respected young musician, pianist Brett Williams. The piece is a very mature statement made by the young and talented George Heid III.
Everything old is new again when the group visits Nat Adderly’s Work Song. Their interpretation and delivery provides nostalgic reflections of the Cannonball Adderly Quintet but, with a renewed treatment of this 1960 classic. Broad Street Walk is introduced by trumpeter, educator, and composer James Moore.
Roger’s drumming finesse and dexterity are briefly showcased in this straight-ahead romp, and Lou, Max, and James each exhibit their musical prowess.
Lou Stellute’s melodious and full-bodied saxophone begins a beautiful interpretation of Horace Silver’s Peace, inviting an intertwining dialogue between trumpet and saxophone—a most sincere homage to the great relationship between Roger and Horace.
Max Leake offers up a light and tasty Mi Bella Kathryn Trumpet and saxophone delightfully soar in unison while some very interesting bass progressions invite the listener to relax and enjoy the ride.
Wylie Avenue Days is self explanatory if you know anything about Pittsburgh, the Hill District, or Wylie Avenue back in the day! Max Leake remembers as he captures the ambiance, rhythms, sounds, and even smells of Wylie Avenue in this flashback to the jazz scene, the people, the culture, and what the music was all about.
It’s said that behind every successful man is a loving and supportive woman. Roger knows that statement to be quite true as he pays tribute to his beautiful and loving wife, Regina, with whom he has made a wonderful life’s journey.
John Coltrane’s Dear Lord epitomizes Roger’s sense of faith, belief, and appreciation for all blessings bestowed upon him. Lou Stellute offers a prayerful and uplifting solo.
Superorbital, by bassist Tony DePaolis, presents a tight and expressive ensemble that allows for a lot of room for self expression. Believe me—they certainly know how to express themselves on this original.
Roger is definitely not known for “beating” around the bush—not when he’s behind his drum set or when he’s discussing an important issue. Recently he was speaking to his audience at CJ’s and was in the process of inviting musicians in the house to sit in with the band. In an attempt to caution those who might “think” they are ready to sit in, Roger alluded to the high level of musicianship on stage and exclaimed, “You’re welcome to come up, but remember, be prepared to play this music because…this ain’t no Gong Show!” Legendary trumpeter Sean Jones was witness to that profound announcement and was motivated to translate that gem of wisdom into a musical statement. Thus, we have Ain’t No Gong Show!
Dwayne Dolphin puts the finishing touches on the final selection of this album with an innovative composition entitled, The Next Step. It’s not necessary to delve into an analysis of this piece. Just listen! Listen with a discerning ear. ’Nuff said!
Keep the Faith has been well worth the wait. Roger has set another milestone with this compilation of musical genius. He will be quick to emphasize that he couldn’t have done this alone. We are fortunate to experience such a high level of musical creativity from those dedicated few who endeavor to keep jazz alive. Like Roger, we must all Keep the Faith!
—Harry D. Clark, Ph.D.