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THE EBONY BRASS QUINTET:
Brand New Bag
Fans of the Modern Jazz Quartet or the Canadian Brass Quintet, take special notice. EBQ melds the instrumentation of a classical quintet (two trumpets, trombone, Frech horn and tuba) into a mellow, new jazz sound. Their tone is exquisite, the ensemble work airtight, and they can swing like crazy, too enchanting music, breathtakingly well-recorded, according to Fi. A Fi Super Disc. (#03032)
Eddy Allen, 1st trumpet
CADENCE RATES EBONY BRASS OVER CANADIAN BRASS!
...The very creative remake of the Basie cut "I Found Love" shows what the album could have been, had the group stuck to a simpler approach utilizing the quintet's (Canadian Brass) impressive abilities.
THE EBONY BRASS QUINTET (Eddy Allen, Frank Gordon, tpt; Alfred Patterson, tbn; Mark Taylor, frhn; Joe Daley, tba) make much better use of the identical instrumentation on Brand New Bag (Mapleshade 03032). The group can do the New Orleans street-band thang (BE-B-Q), hold their own on arrangements reminiscent of the World Saxophone Quartet (Langston Hughes: Feet Live Their Own Life), and pull off the nasty brass style of Defunkt (Papa's Got A Brand New Bag). That behind them, they then move on to their own additions to the rhythm section-less format: wonderfully smooth and intricate covers of Nefertiti and Ill Wind that, like the best acappella groups, tackle complex music without reminding the listener that the usual instrumentation has been rendered unnecessary. Other cuts: And He Never Said A Mumblin' Word/Evolution Of Man - III/'Round Midnight/Take The A Train/A Child Is Born/Ballad From A Dying Planet/Morning Star - 58:43.) Throughout, the quintet makes evident the difference between reinterpreting and merely re-recording familiar songs. Hard to imagine any Jazzer disliking this disc, regardless of their camp. (Guest artists: Hamiet Bluiett, bari s; Eli Fountain, d. Recorded 3/28-29/94).
Now here's a minimally miked, live-to-2-track, purist, analog recording that sounds about as real as CD can manage these days: the Ebony Brass Quintet's Brand New Bag [Mapleshade]. Two trumpets, a trombone, a French horn, and tuba sit in a semi-circle, joined on a couple tunes by a drummer or by baritone saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett (of the World Saxophone Quartet, who produced this disc). You can see and hear everything they play and do, you can sense the mouthpieces and horns vibrating, you can tell which way the bells are pointing Ü and all these sounds mingle up in the air, in a single bloom, like a fresh bouquet. There is a hall-like, not an electronic, reverberation, and that's because they are playing at the bottom of a stairwell-entranceway with a very high ceiling. Putting the players out in the hall Ü that's Mapleshade proprietor engineer Pierre Sprey's idea of an "echo machine."
This lifelike sound would count for nothing if the music weren't worth listening to, and the line-up, on paper anyway, does make one wonder. Chamber jazz? Sometimes interesting, usually pretty dry. Well, Brand New Bag is not dry at all and much more than interesting. These are superb, classically trained musicians who are also professional jazz players; their tone is exquisite, the ensemble work airtight, and they can swing like crazy too. Their work as arrangers is also first-rate: covers of tunes like Round Midnight, Wayne Shorter's Nefertiti, and Thad Jones's A Child Is Born breathe as if new. A few originals, most notably trombonist Alfred Patterson's dedication to Langston Hughes, deserve to become standards themselves. Only the group's take on James Brown's Papa's Got A Brand New Bag comes off a bit strained.
So, a double surprise: unexpectedly enchanting music, breathtakingly well-recorded. All too rare a combination but enough to keep us going. (Mapleshade 03032)
This group utilizes the instrumentation of a classical brass quintet, adds some church overtones, and achieves an ambitious jazz sound not unlike the World Saxophone Quartet.
The musicianship is first rate and the players (Eddie Allen and Frank Gordon, trumpets, Al Patterson, trombone, Mark Taylor, French horn, and Joe Daley, tuba) perform with excellent skill and technique.
The program includes spirituals, originals, and selections from the jazz repertory, all spritefully arranged to take advantage of the sonorities and harmonies of the ensemble. The only drawback is a lack of rhythmic vitality, perhaps inherent in the presentation, and most evident on songs like James Brown's title track, which, while funky enough, never burns with an appropriate rocking intensity.
The album is part of Mapleshade's new "Explorations" series, under the stewardship of Hamiet Bluiett, and Bluiett guests on a couple of numbers. In fact, his performance on Allen's "BE-B-Q" is searing and adds the major spice to the date.