BASS’D ON A TRUE STORY / BOWMAN: East of the Sun (and West of the Moon).4 ROBERTSON: The Next Thing to Come.3, 5 GOLSON: Stablemates.4 ROBERTSON: Majestic Nights.1,3,5 Mr. Lonious.4 Lullaby for Noelle.5 Peace by Midnight.5 Better Days Will Come.2,4 Phat Friday.1,3,5 Maven’s Arrival / Brandon Robertson, bs acc. by 1James Suggs, tpt; 2Adrian Crutchfield, s-sax; 2Avis Berry, voc; 3Lew Del Gatto, t-sax; 4Mason Margul, 5Zach Bartholomew, pno; 4Leon Anderson, 5Gerald Watkins Jr., dm / self-produced album
Bassist Brandon Robertson, originally from Tampa, Florida, presents here a collection of music that he realized all comes from “a time capsule of my beginnings as an artist” for his debut CD. In fact, Phat Friday was his first composition at age 18, written in New Orleans four months before Hurricane Katrina hit.
First up is Brooks Bowman’s classic 1936 song East of the Sun, with the leader playing the melody and its variants on bass to a simple piano-drums accompaniment. Nothing fancy here, but a great introduction to Robertson’s rich, strong sound and ability to swing. When pianist Mason Margul gets his chance, he contributes an outstanding chorus. Leon Anderson also acquits himself well in his drum breaks.
The first of several Robertson originals, The Next Thing to Come, sounds for all the world like an advanced cool jazz tune from the 1950s, complete with unusual chord changes. Lew Del Gatto’s laid-back tenor sax is added to the mix here, and he plays the opening chorus before Robertson enters. He has a fertile imagination, but tends to stay within certain boundaries when improvising. The rhythm section on this one is Zach Bartholomew on piano and Gerald Watkins Jr. on drums; Watkins is a smoother drummer than Anderson, which suits this piece well, and Del Gatto’s Stan Getz-like tenor solo is quite interesting.
Benny Golson’s Stablemates, an uptempo swinger, finds Robertson in fine form, again stating the melody before Margul contributes a tasteful solo. As a composition, I was especially impressed by Majestic Nights which has a sort of Night in Tunisia-style rhythm and an engaging melody—something you rarely hear in today’s jazz—played beautifully by trumpeter James Suggs with Del Gatto providing the harmony. Robertson develops his tune nicely above Watkins’ drumming, then Suggs returns to play a mellow but interesting solo that becomes more complex as he improvises further. Del Gatto also gets his Getz in.
Mr. Lonious also opens with the bass, this time playing a slow, quirky figure a cappella before picking up the tempo and launching into an interesting, minor-key tune. When the piano comes in, it’s obvious that this is a tribute to Monk, and a very fine one it is, too. Margul does a fine imitation of the master here.
Lullaby for Noelle opens with a bit of dialogue between Robertson and his daughter, saying goodnight. This is a ballad on which the leader plays bowed bass to start with, which emphasizes his rich, full tone (Robertson originally started as a cellist, and it shows up here.) On Peace by Midnight we again hear Del Gatto on tenor in an attractive but somewhat unusual medium-slow tune. The saxist plays an excellent solo here for a couple of choruses, leading into another fine one by the leader. Better Days Will Come is one of those hopeful ballads, sung in soul style by Avis Berry with backing by soprano saxist Adrian Crutchfield.
Phat Friday is a modern-New Orleans swinger in the style of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, only with just one trumpet and tenor sax, but it moves well and has a nice funky beat to it. Suggs and Del Gatto play a nice couple of chase choruses, followed by Bartholomew on piano with the leader’s bass pumping nicely in the background. He later takes his own solo, very rhythmic, which leads into the ensemble. The finale, Maven’s Arrival, is a bass solo for the leader, a slow piece with some interesting twists and turns.
All in all, a very fine debut disc for a jazz bassist who shows considerable promise. I give it five fish!
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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