KINSHIP / PITTMAN: Ties That Bind. For Siobhan. Homio-stasis. Moray Crossing. Reminiscing. Home. TIMBERLAKE-FRATANTUNO-POJON: Where is the Love? WONDER: As / John Pittman, tpt; Shirantha Beddage, bar-sax; Jeff McLeod, pno; Mike Downes, bass; Curtis Nowosad, dm. / Slammin Media SM0001
This is the debut release by Toronto-based jazz trumpeter John Pittman, due out August 24. The publicity blurb for the album contains the usual touchy-feely stuff that is, apparently, de rigueur for jazz records nowadays, i.e. that music is storytelling and that it’s “all about relationships. How characters interact, how they grow or change, and how the audience relates to, responds to or empathizes with those characters is essential.”
But such things are not essential to me, the listener of a recording. What is essential is the music, and in this respect Pittman and his band gave me great pleasure. They swing hard, they’re inventive, they’re not pretentious, touchy-feely or maudlin. The only somewhat weak link in the band, to my ears, was pianist McLeod, whose playing is technically fluent and certainly competent, but not particularly inventive or original. In ensemble, however, he’s fine, helping to drive the band with great tone and touch.
The music itself is pretty straightahead jazz, the first tune (Ties That Bind) being a pretty driving bop piece and the second (For Siobhan) being a sort of funky-blues piece. Pittman’s trumpet solo on this one is logically constructed, built around the melodic line rather than on the changes, as is Mike Downes’ fine bass solo. This is a style of jazz that one seldom hears nowadays, when flying off the handle and going into outer space seem all the rage.
Homio-stasis is, at heart, an old-fashioned swinger, albeit one in which Pittman throws in some odd staccato figures in the breaks. This is clearly one of his most interesting compositions, and once again the solos feed into the tune’s structure, with the leader’s trumpet solo being the most adventurous. Moray Crossing is another interesting composition, overlaying its funky R&B beat with a minimal but well-constructed melodic line. McLeod is very good on this one, along with Pittman.
Kinship starts out as free jazz, but again morphs into a sort of funky groove, this time with staccato piano chords behind it. Where is the Love? is even more complex, using a driving beat that slowly accelerates and sounds at times like a Charles Mingus piece. There’s a similar feel in Reminiscing, which starts with an out-of-tempo piano solo before moving into a ballad melody played by Pittman with the rhythm section softly massaging the background. Ruminative solos ensue, particularly a nice one by Beddage on baritone sax.
The quintet turns Stevie Wonder’s As into an uptempo jazz romp. I think the composer would really like this treatment; so many of his songs have a jazz base at their heart. Pittman’s trumpet solo here is a real gem. With Home, we return to a bluesy groove, this time in a slow-burning tempo, with the leader playing a smoldering solo with straight cup mute.
This is a fine first outing on record for Pittman; I’m interested to see how he develops as a leader and jazz composer. He has great instincts!
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
Follow me on Twitter or Facebook @Artmusiclounge