When a composer is fortunate enough to have first class musicians to perform his material, and those musicians happen to be among his best friends... you know you just can't go wrong. Such is the case here.
Arturo, Andy, and Phoenix have worked together as the rhythm section for the Chico O'Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz at Lincoln Center's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. After many years and gigs together, their familiarity with one another is obvious.
Jed came to my attention subbing on Chico's band during our long run at Birdland. His solos always knock me out. When sax great Mario Rivera was unavailable for this recording, I knew Jed would come in and nail everything. I wasn't wrong. Jed's solo on Cha-Cha Un-Uh is a classic.
Truth Juice is a funky tribute to one of my all time favorite bands - the early 60's Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with Bobby Timmons and Lee Morgan.
We initially recorded Solita as a faster samba groove. At Andy's request, we changed the arrangement on the spot and what you hear is what came out in one take. Thanks, Andy! Solita is my lady waving to me as I take off for a distant locale.
Starry Night is a moody bossa featuring flute and electric keyboard. The composition sets a moody feel for Arturo and Jed to play with. Flute and trumpet have a conversation over the end vamp. Little General is for my Dad. I wrote it at his house, the last time I ever saw him. I once heard Arturo tell an interviewer, "Everything important about music I learned from my father". Amen, brother.
In Forest Path, the rhythm section continues to evolve throughout Arturo's thoughtful and funky romp. Especially dig Arturo's changes coming out of his solo and back to the head. None of that was written, Arturo just threw it out on the spot. The drum solo was also unplanned. It emerged spontaneously during the take. When Phoenix began to apologize afterwards, I stopped him "Are you kidding? It's perfect!" Phoenix sounds like he's talking through the drums.
New Meaning: A straight ahead blues just to stretch out on. Nothing fancy - just the blues.
Cha-cha Un-Uh: When I first brought this tune in, I had some questions for Andy. His economical response was "un-uh". The tune instantly became "cha-cha un-uh". Make the music swing and have fun, what else is there?
Child's Toy (for Jenny) is a soulful yearning for those whom we lose. If you listen closely, you can hear Arturo's children playing and laughing during the track. Laughter and sadness over the background of a child's toy chime.
Fields of wheat, corn and, periodically, cows. This is what the average New Yorker thinks Kansas is and has. How quaint, how provincial - the New Yorker that is. The hinterlands often yield a different hometown product, one that is a rarer commodity, and certainly, one that will produce a more satisfying, long-term nourishment for your soul. Jim Seeley is one such product, a "jazz" musician with both skill and soul.
That's a rare breed these days. Even rarer still is the musician who understands how jazz is rooted in the blues, and who's done his homework and knows about Clifford, Chet, Woody, and Freddie. This knowledge is heady stuff, but when you also get a musician who knows how to play from his heart, a musician who truly forgets about time and space and declares the truth from his horn, now you're talking!
Jim Seeley has the skills; he can float through complex changes and stop and turn on a dime. He can play in many jazz languages, from hard bop to free, and all with superlative trumpet technique and musical intellect. But Jim is also a profound human being, or as my father used to say, "that's a deep cat".
Okay, so if you have the ability and the heart but have not connected the two, you still ain't got nothing. Jimmy has become what all great musicians are, a conduit from the deepness of his soul, through the beauty of his thought and out the proper end of his horn, with great chops no less!
I've seen it happen time and time again over the past ten years. You see, Jimmy plays in all my groups, The Chico O'Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, and my various small groups. When Jimmy plays, people go wild, they love him. He does what jazz is supposed to do: he brings the message home. And consequently, people walk away from his performances a little bit richer, their loads a little bit lighter. That's what it's all about.
He is also a great writer who has put together an album of eight tunes, revealing a wide cross section of influences and styles. These are not frivolous compositions designed to make that royalty money (ha). They are such strong statements that they shape and inform the improviser as to what to play. I've adopted several Jim Seeley originals into my piano trio format and play them at almost every concert.
Jed Levy plays flute and tenor saxophone with a fierce swing and melodic inventiveness that lifts every selection to a new level. We laugh with glee when Jed gets really into it because when his body starts to sway, it serves as a warning that he is about to take flight! And when he does, watch out, he plays pure joy.
Andy Gonzalez is one of my heros, his bass lines exude elegance, logic and understanding of groove. He has not forgotten what Bach discovered, that the function of the bass is both rhythmic and contrapuntal. It is rhythm section royalty, and in Andy's hands it fulfills its regal calling.
Phoenix Rivera is one of a handful of drummers in the world who can play true jazz and true latin with authority and swing. He has what we call "spangalang" and "timba.'' You might recognize it as that ineffable quality when you taste smokin' barbecue. It's intangible and goes beyond the individual ingredients, but you know it's there 'cause you gotta have more. It's called fatback, manteca, moxie and a million other things. Phoenix has it in spades.
So basically what you've got on this CD is a true jazz experience. One that respects the many traditions within jazz, blues, funk, latin and swing. No pretensions, no delusions, just hard core music with one aim: to satisfy and nourish your heart and soul.
Recorded at OK Studios, Brooklyn, in April 2003. Engineer: Kato Hideki. Mixed and mastered: Kato & Jim Seeley. Produced by Jim & Arturo. Photography by Sergio Royzen. Package Design : 3 & Co. www.threeandco.com Executive Producer: Joachim Becker.