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Dave Young

Lotus Blossom

MODICA MUSIC [No number] [41:20]

 

 

1. Lotus Blossom (Billy Strayhorn) [5:26]

2. Modinha (Antonio Carlos Jobim) [7:34]

3. Red Cross (Charlie Parker) [5:49]

4. Fried Bananas (Dexter Gordon) [5:32]

5. Bolivia (Cedar Walton) [5:58]

6. I Thought About You (Jimmy Van Heusen) [6:10]

7. Softly as in A Morning Sunrise (Sigmund Romberg) [4:51]

Dave Young (bass)

Renee Rosnes (piano, tracks 1-2)

Bernie Senensky (piano, tracks 5-6)

Reg Schwager (guitar, tracks 2-3, and 4)

Terry Clarke (drums)

Kevin Turcotte (trumpet, track 7 only)

Perry White (tenor sax, track 7 only)

Rec. Revolution Sound, Toronto, May 12 2016

Canadian Dave Young has long been a master bassist, much admired by many significant jazz musicians. Blessed with what seems to be innate musicality he produces a big, but agile, sound on his instrument and seems to have a perfect sense of time. He has many fine CDs to his name; in the mid 1990s he recorded 3 CDs worth of highly recommendable piano-bass duets with a roll call of major pianists which included Oscar Peterson, John Hicks, Barry Harris, Oliver Jones, Renee Rosnes, Mulgrew Miller, Cyrus Chestnut and Cedar Walton.

In the autumn of 2016 Modica Music released an album called One Way Up by a quintet under Young’s leadership – the other members of the band being trumpeter Kevin Turcotte, tenor saxophonist Perry White, pianist Renee Rosnes and drummer Terry Clarke. The music on that album was recorded on May 11-12, 2016. Now the same label has released another album, Lotus Blossom, which was recorded, unplanned, on the second day of that session. Some details are given in a brief note by Roberto Occhipini (himself a bassist and a record producer, who seems to be the driving force behind Modica Music): “We still had some time left. I asked Dave to invite some of the guys he had played with over the years to guest on a couple of tunes. We did ‘Softly in a morning sunrise’ while waiting for Renee to arrive, but the rest of the disc was done in the sequence it appears on the disc, almost all of them being first takes. The first tune ‘Lotus Blossom’, was a favourite of Renee’s and Dave’s so they came up with a form and recorded it. When Renee realized Reg [Schwager] was coming, she said she had known him for years, they had never recorded together. She had the tune ‘Madhina’ which Reg knew but Dave had never played, and we came up with the arrangement on the second take. Renee left and Reg, Dave and Terry played ‘Red Cross’ and ‘Fried bananas’ as a trio. Bernie came in and they became a quartet for Bolivia. A trio version of Bernie’s arrangement of ‘I Thought About You’ finished off the day”.

The air of informality implied in that narrative gives an attractive sense of spontaneity and humanity to the music on this CD, at a time when some jazz recordings can sound over-rehearsed and over-produced. Not here, this is experienced musicians playing with a real trust in one another’s skills.

Through the numerous changes in personnel and formation (see above), the one constant is the presence of Young himself and drummer Terry Clarke. The two have worked together regularly over several decades and their familiarity with one another is evident as they ensure that, quite literally, everything goes with a swing. While there is nothing ground-breaking about this music, its iteration of the virtues of the modern mainstream is fresh, powerful and persuasive.

To take, briefly, the tracks in the order in which they were recorded: on ‘Softly as in a Morning Sunrise’ (not for the first time I find myself wondering what other kind of sunrise there is?) White and Turcotte interact engagingly, as Young takes a prominent role at the beginning of the track and also take good advantage of their solo spots, as does Young in a fluent solo. With the horns dropping out and pianist Renee Rosnes added, Billy Strayhorn’s lovely ‘Lotus Blossom’ features Rosnes, playing with her characteristic subtlety and sensitivity, nicely supported by the nimble Young and some appropriately understated drumming by Clarke. In ‘Modhina’ the Latin rhythms are effective and attractive, without the slightest exaggeration, and both Rosnes and guitarist Schwager make engaging statements.

Things are thoroughly boppish on ‘Red Cross’ (a Charlie Parker composition which he recorded, in September 1944, in a quintet led by guitarist Tiny Grimes). Schwager has clearly absorbed, and made his own, the bop guitar idiom, within which he sounds very comfortable. Perhaps strangely, when the same trio play Dexter Gordon’s ‘Fried Bananas’, I miss the big sound of Gordon’s tenor sax rather more than I miss Parker’s alto on ‘Red Cross’. Indeed ‘Red Cross’, for all the musicianship of those concerned, sounds a little too spare. The addition of Bernie Senensky, on Cedar Walton’s ‘Bolivia’, naturally makes for a fuller sound and, since Senensky is a pianist fluent in both bop and hard bop idioms he has contributes plenty of good ideas to a lively reading of Walton’s tune.

‘I Thought of You’ (played by Senensky, Young and Clarke) is a fine piano trio version of Jimmy Van Heusen’s often played (and sung) composition of 1939 (with lyrics by Johnny Mercer). Senensky’s is the dominant voice here (the arrangement is his too) and the track serves as a reminder of what a fine pianist he is. If, like me, you find yourself admiring Senensky, you might like check out a 1991 album under his name, Wheel Within A Wheel, on which he leads a quartet which includes altoist Bobby Watson, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Marvin ‘Smitty’ Smith, or perhaps his trio album Rhapsody from 1993, with Jim Vivian (bass) and Bob Moses (drums) (Both albums are doubtless hard to find nowadays, but both can, at present, be heard on Spotify).

Lotus Blossom is a recording which features four senior figures in Canadian jazz – Young, Rosnes, Senensky and Clarke – (even if Rosnes has been based in the USA since the mid 1980s. Along with two musicians (White and Turcotte) who, as yet, have lower international profiles, they work together at a high level of professionalism in what was evidently a fairly as-hoc session, to produce a thoroughly entertaining album.

Glyn Pursglove

 


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