The Young-Promane Octet on High Octane

Cover Art

DAVE YOUNG/TERRY PROMANE OCTET, Vol. 2 / RODGERS-HAMMERSTEIN: Oh, What a Beautiful Morning. MINGUS: Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love. FIELDS-McHUGH: I Can’t Give You Anything But Love. ELLIS-FRIGO-CARTER: Detour Ahead. GILLESPIE: Bebop. LEGRAND: You Must Believe in Spring. CALDWELL: Can’t You See. WILDER-PALITZ: Moon and Sand. D. PEARSON: Jeannine. WALTON: Hindsight / Dave Young, bs; Terry Promane, tb; Kevin Turcotte, tpt;/Fl-hn; Vern Dorge, a-sax; Mike Murley, t-sax; Perry White, bar-sax; Dave Restivo, pn; Terry Clarke, dm / Modica, available for download at iTunes

It was pioneer jazz arranger Bill Challis, way back in 1926-27, who first devised the idea of having a “moving bass line” that would change the harmony along with the top line of the reeds and brass, rather than have the bass remain steady in both tempo and harmony. On this, their second album, the Young/Promane Octet has taken that principle to a new level. As one can hear from the opening selection, not only does the bass line move and morph along with the chord changes up top, but the top line too morphs and changes along with the variations on the melody. Thus the well-worn Oh, What a Beautiful Morning turns itself into an entirely new composition, one might say a contrafact based on the Rodgers and Hammerstein tune.

In addition to this, the various soloists all sound as if they’re fully in synch with the concept, so much so that they fit what they play into the surrounding material. The result is a series of evolving compositions based on the familiar (and not-so-familiar) tunes listed above. Because this is a sax-oriented lineup, trumpeter Kevin Turcotte seldom explores the upper range of his instrument; rather, like the legendary Louis Mucci, he blends his tone in with the reeds, anchored by the baritone sax of Perry White. (Yes, I was tempted to say “Fresh from his engagement as editor of The Daily Planet.) Alto saxist Vern Dorge, who plays in a sort of relaxed bop style, also contributes nicely-sculptured solos to the evolving compositions. In Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love, his double-time solo is followed by the orchestra itself playing in double time for a chorus. It is one of several devices that our dual leader-arrangers have come up with for this album.

It may sound trite, but I was actually glad to hear drummer Terry Clarke playing relatively conventional beats. Nowadays it seems as though many drummers, freed of the conventions of old-school timekeeping, indulge themselves freely in complex polyrhythms that sound good but sometimes inhibit swing. In I Can’t Give You Anything But Love Clarke plays around a little with the beat, but by and large he and bassist-coleader Young keep things swinging smoothly. The other coleader, Promane, plays an outstanding trombone solo on this one, and if you missed the opening chorus in which the original melody was played with variants in both harmony and beat-lengths, you might be forgiven for not knowing what song this was. That’s how good, and innovative, the writing for this band is.

Mike Murley’s warm tenor is heard to good advantage in the opening chorus of Detour Ahead, which he almost makes his own, and in Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop the band almost outdoes itself in the rapid shifting of chords underneath the fast-moving melody. Dorge shines again here, as does Turcotte, and Restivo’s single-note piano solo is superb. Surprisingly, Michel Legrand’s ballad You Must Believe in Spring is given a medium-up reading, the centerpiece of which is a wonderful Restivo solo, but it’s the ensemble improvisation that follows that grabs one’s attention.

Can’t You See features a rare bass solo by Young, who appears to be playing an electrified bass. I liked the ideas, but the tone was a little odd for my taste. Moon and Sand belongs primarily to Promane, who doubles the time throughout his solo, leaving pianist Restivo to play some nice fills on piano.

Jeannine starts with some booting baritone sax by White, followed by the ensemble, after which the tempo suddenly doubles as Young pushes the band along. Turcotte is particularly brilliant here on trumpet, wearing his Thad Jones shoes. Once finished, however, it’s the brilliant ensemble that takes over. Hindsight is the somewhat relaxed finale, played as if the band were skipping through a flowerbed in the park. Dorge shines again here on alto, Restivo plays a nice piano chorus and the band floats off into the ether.

An excellent outing and a disc worth repeated hearings.

—© 2017 Lynn René Bayley

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