INTIMATE ADVERSARY / MOUSE: Barney’s Fife. Old, New & Used Testaments. Intimate Adversary. Adamant Inversary. Nineteen Sixty-Five. ‘Twas Never Thus. Jacomo. Three Heads are Better Than One. MOUSE-ROBINSON-BOWMAN: Three Free / Art Davis, tpt/fl-hn; Scott Robinson, t-sax; John McLean, gtr; Bob Bowman, bs; Jack Mouse, dm / Tall Grass Records TG 8284
Drummer Jack Mouse has been performing since his late teens with the kind of musicians I grew up with: tenor saxist Tex Beneke, trombonist-bandleader Buddy Morrow, clarinetist and tenor saxist Peanuts Hucko and vibist Red Norvo. His national prominence came after a three-year stint with the Falconaires, the jazz ensemble of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Since then he has played with Stan Kenton (another name I grew up with), Clark Terry, Herb Ellis, James Moody, Randy Brecker, Kai Winding, Bill Evans, Jon Faddis, Bob Mintzer, etc. etc. On this album he also shows his abilities as a jazz composer.
Barney’s Fife, a tribute to Don Knotts’ character on the old Andy Griffith Show, is a nice, uptempo piece built around an opening lick repeated as a theme with a more rhythm-oriented middle eight. Art Davis is an interesting but somewhat mellow trumpeter whose improvisations sounded to me like a cross between Clifford Brown and Clark Terry, while Scott Robinson’s tenor sax has a bit of grit in the tone here and there which I liked very much, occasionally going up into the instrument’s extreme top range. The piano-less rhythm section really swings.
Old, New and Used Testaments is a medium-slow Gospel-tinged number, again using a fairly minimal theme as its basis. McLean plays a bluesy guitar solo that leaned a little too far into the rock spectrum for my taste. The title tune, Intimate Adversary, is certainly one of the strangest on the album, opening with an out-of-tempo bowed bass solo by Bob Bowman that sounds atonal. When the piece develops, we hear a strange, slow, Latin-beat sore of tune played by McLean on guitar over the bass and drums. The solos are appropriately moody and low-key, but interesting. Later on, there’s a nice chorus played by Davis and Robinson in thirds.
This tune’s opposite number, Adamant Adversary, is also low-key in volume but much more uptempo, using its catchy but sparse theme as a launching pad for the soloists. Mouse plays some interesting rhythmic patterns behind the soloists, particularly Robinson. Nineteen Sixty-Five doesn’t sound so much like a piece from that era as it does a swing tune from the mid-to-late 1940s, but it’s cute and catchy, well played. Bowman has a nice plucked solo here, too. Twas Never Thus is a very slow, smoldering tune, not so much a ballad as a mood piece, the kind of thing you play late at night when you’re already feeling kind of down, with the lights turned low. The solos dovetail into the fabric of the music very well on this one, with Robinson channeling Stan Getz for a bit.
Jacomo is more uptempo, starting out with just McLean and Bowman playing together before Mouse enters, then the rest of the group. The rhythm shifts and changes here and there throughout the piece. Three Heads Are Better Than One probably refers to the three different themes that play contrapuntally against one another here; this is like inventive ‘50s jazz at its best. This tripartite quality extends into the first solo chorus, with trumpet, tenor sax and guitar all playing improvisations at the same time before McLean goes solo, then the leader on drums.
In the finale, a collaborative piece titled Three Free, Mouse sets up a sort of calypso beat which Robinson plays over plaintively while Bowman interjects bass notes in the background. This interplay continues, with Robinson playing weird quadruple-time figures later on. The rest of the group sits out as this strange interplay continues. It’s a surprisingly avant-garde and challenging piece, quite different from the rest of the album.
All in all, a good CD with some real highlights in it.
—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley
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