Monday, January 17, 2011

John McNeil/Bill McHenry: Keeping Tradition

John McNeil/Bill McHenry (trumpet/sax)
Chill Morn He Climb Jenny (Sunnyside Records)
Joe Martin (bass)
Jochen Ruecket (drums)

This is a bloody brilliant record. I wish I had heard about this a few weeks ago, it would have made of Best Albums Of 2010.

Chill Morn He Climb Jenny is the follow up to the duo's previous quartet effort, Rediscovery (Sunnyside; 2008). Both albums explore compositions written by largely unheralded jazz musicians of the past. The genesis for both these sessions came out of live performances over the last few years. On Chill Morn... McNeil and McHenry re-imagine with ease and beauty numbers from Russ Freeman, Thad Jones and one of my all-time favourites, Wilbur Harden.

The lineup is the same as Rediscovery, with Rueckert and Martin bringing in the rhythm. McNeil and McHenry compliment each other very well. They share duties and intermingle these tunes with traditional reverence. "Three And One" (originally written by Thad Jones) is an excellent display of the quartet's hard bop sensibilities. It rolls and rumbles with each member having an opportunity shine. Joe Martin's subtle movement along the scales is quiet but resonates just underneath. Jochen Ruecket drum work keeps the rhythm flowing freely throughout. The interplay between McNeil and McHenry is really something for the listener to key in on. This is a tight and at time blistering performance, especially when McHenry sets off on a solo midway through.

"Wells Fargo", a classic piece of hard bop written by Wilbur Harden (and originally featuring John Coltrane) is a magnificent tribute. This is a track you probably wouldn't hear that often. Harden is definitely a forgotten figure who really needs to be reexamined by the jazz community.

At times you really do feel like you fallen by into a late '50s - 60s jazz club and are setting listening to one killer performance after another. That is highlighted again on the Russ Freeman piece "Bea's Flat" a smokin' piece where the band rip through a series of chord changes and rhythms that will leave you quite astounded. The album closes with will a great but unfortunately short rendition of Mile Davis' "No Blues". It goes for a slightly different tone than the original and feels like an appropriate way to close out this sizzlin' outing.

Chill Morn He Climb Jenny is a great homage to some well deserved and truly underrated hard bop figures. It's an album that really should appeal to everyone. An album built on tradition but exudes a modern style that is a must listen for sure.

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