|Bandleader Scott Reeves with his two mellow horns. |
A faculty jazz outing from 2005 at City College of New York receives a welcome first issue, thanks to trombonist-composer Scott Reeves' work with Brian Montgomery, a Grammy-winning recording/mixing engineer, who isolated the instruments and remixed them.
"The Alchemist" (Origin Records) is a title that could well be applied to the blend of science and magic that produced this resurrected version of music performed in concert 16 years ago. Some of the slightly off-kilter chemistry within the band is front and center in the churning boogaloo piece that gives its name to the recording.
The leader's devotion to two instruments with mellow, mid-range timbres — alto valve trombone and alto flugelhorn — is enhanced by his choice of simpatico sidemen: guitarist Russ Spiegel, pianist Mike Holober, bassist Howard Britz, and drummer Andy Watson.
Reeves acts as his own duo partner, with one horn overlaid on the other, in the slightly exotic opener, "New Bamboo," as well as in "Without a Trace," also notable for its thoughtful Reeves solo. The arrangements always enhance a coming-together of the five instruments, especially toward the end of a ballad such as "Remembrances."
Horn-guitar voices appear often in unison, as in the tricky "Shapeshifter," with the mutual support especially well-integrated when Holober turns to electric piano. A drum solo undergirded by a repetitive acoustic piano pattern provides the imaginative shift suggested by the title, yielding to a pungent piano solo. A supernaturally tinged ensemble passage ensues, recalling to me the moment in "Das Rheingold" when the Nibelung Alberich transforms himself into a toad.
The original compositions are well-designed, and there's a fresh take on the disc's one standard, "All or Nothing at All," with crunchy piano punctuation in the theme reflecting the resolution conveyed by the song title. When the bridge comes up, everything moves toward relaxation and simply glides. Spiegel sets down fleet, long phrases in his solo, which seems to inspire some of Reeves' best solo work.
All told, this is a notable reclamation project. No barriers are broken, but rather, a band notably in touch with the material gets some well-deserved permanence with the release of this document.