Friday, March 7, 2014

Adam Rongo: Tell Your Story

D Clef Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Tell Your Story

Saxophonist/composer Adam Rongo heads up a wonderfully swinging unit here: a group that brings back fond memories of the best bands that graced us when jazz truly was king. The basic unit is a sax/trombone/piano/bass/drum quintet, but eight guest artists are sprinkled throughout this album’s 11 track menu; as a result, the average combo size is closer to a septet. 

None of these players is well known ... yet. They’re mostly in their 20s and 30s and, although still under the radar at the moment, are well on the way to future stardom.

The core quintet features Rongo (sax), Michael Dease (trombone), Emmet Cohen (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass) and Ulysses Owens Jr. (drums). Guitarist Randy Napoleon, vibraphonist Behn Gillece and baritone saxman Tony Lustig expand the instrumentalists; additionally, Anthony Stanco (trumpet), Tim Mayer (tenor sax), Miki Hayama (piano) and Evan Sherman (drums) sit in on some tracks. 

Three old standards — “Stardust,” “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and “Your Mine, You” — are given lovely, up-to-date treatments. The rest of the tunes, written by members of the band and Johnny Green, Johnny Griffin and Jimmy Heath, are up-tempo swingers that bring the party to life. My favorite is a roaring rendition of Griffin’s “Fifty-Six”; if it doesn’t get you movin’ and groovin’, nothing will. 

This is the kind of stuff that used to move the audience off the dance floor, to gather around the band!

Great musicians and great arrangements: a wonderful release.

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