1. It's You or No One
2. Juicy Lucy
3. Pelham Gardens
4. Bishop Island
5. Only of a Season
6. It's a New York Thing
7. 'Round Midnight/In a Sentimental Mood
8. Big Brother
Ray Vega, Thomas Marriott - Trumpets
Travis Shook - Piano
Jeff Johnson - Bass
Matt Jorgensen - Drums
Throughout the history of jazz, trumpet players have pitted their ability to improvise against one another. My guess is it started with King Oliver and Louis Armstrong in New Orleans. In more recent times, audiences have thrilled to the creative talents of groups that had Howard McGhee matched with Fats Navarro, Art Farmer with Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard with Woody Shaw. Although the competition is now more friendly, under the surface the competitive spirit still exists! These two guys are worthy successors to those famous names and their work on this album is inspiring.
The East-West bit refers to the fact that Thomas Marriott grew up in Seattle and RayVega in New York. That however is just the way things started out; today both men play across the USA and so do their rhythm section. Travis Shock is a NYC resident and Jeff Johnson and Matt Jorgensen are based in Seattle. As a rhythm unit they are superb: all the accompanying work is first-class as are their solos.
Ray and Thomas have different trumpet styles, but their work fits together very well and their ability to maintain the listener's interest is inherent throughout.
The album kicks off in great style with It's You or No One, one of the greatest standard tunes ever and a great jazz vehicle. The rhythm section really takes off, as they drive along both the trumpet men, and there is also an excellent solo from Travis Shook on piano. As a curtain-raiser, this track gets the album off to a great start.
Next up is Horace Silver's Juicy Lucy, a tune he often featured with his own band. This version has excellent work from Travis Shook whose piano playing is well worthy of mention in the same breath as that of the composer. Again both trumpet players raise the excitement level and it is difficult to prefer one to the other as both display excellent range, control of the instrument and a superb improvisational ability. Their four-bar chase shows a great empathy on the part of both men.
Pelham Gardens is a Thomas Marriott composition taken at a bright tempo, Bishop Island, it turns out, is the epicentre of jazz in the Seattle area and the home of Origin Records. This latter composition is taken at a more relaxed tempo, something similar to a serenade.
Only of a Season is a Ray Vega composition in waltz time dedicated to some of his musician colleagues along with everyone who perished in a plane crash in Buffalo in 2009.
Anyone who has visited New York City always feels the vital energy that it generates and Ray Vega's composition It's a New York Thing catches that energy and drive beautifully. None more than the rhythm section, which is superb from start to finish, whether as soloists or backing the horns, they provide a superb basis for the work of the trumpet soloists.
Both horn men have a ballad feature: `Round Midnight for Ray and In a Sentimental Mood for Thomas and we hear a different side of their talents as they caress these delightful tunes.
Big Brother is Thomas's salute to Ray, who started out as his mentor but has become his musical partner. This is no ordinary partnership and one I would like to hear more of.
This is one of the best jazz CDs I have heard for a while and I recommend it to all who like their jazz inventive yet accessible and most of all exciting. In fact just how jazz should be!