Richard Whiteman is Very Well & Good

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WHITEMAN: Very Well and Good. Not So Early. Waltz for Zeke. It Is What it Is – for John Sumner. Selohssa. Pat and Mike. La Belle Époche. Right Here, Right Now, With You. Dancing With Zeke. TOSOFF: Re-Entry. A. WHITE: Residue. LIBBEY-WAYNE: Mangoes / Mike Murley, Pat LaBarbara, t-sax; Amanda Tosoff, pno; Reg Schwager, gt; Richard Whiteman, bs; Morgan Childs, dm / Cornerstone Records, no number

Richard Whiteman is a Canadian jazz musician who, after playing for years as a pianist, switched to bass in 2004. This CD shows him in a fairly straightahead bop setting with his piano quartet. Tenor saxists Mike Murley and Pat LaBarbara join the group on this disc as special guests, sometimes playing chase choruses in the tradition of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims.

Tosoff

Amanda Tosoff

It’s a wonderfully tight group, too, and both pianist Amanda Tosoff and guitarist Reg Schwager are fine soloists. Thankfully, Schwager plays jazz guitar and not rock guitar, which I really appreciated after suffering through the guitarist on the previous CD I reviewed. And one cannot discount drummer Morgan Childs, who not only keeps a nice, steady beat but is also a tasteful soloist.

Whiteman’s own compositions are largely the feature here. Although not exceptional, they are all fine pieces, though I could have lived without the drippy waltzes Not So Early and Waltz for Zeke. Nonetheless, it is on Not So Early that we first hear Whiteman as a soloist, and I was struck by his rich, full bass tone, something not to be taken for granted. Re-Entry, a piece by Tosoff, is another good bop swinger featuring the two saxists. They most definitely add interest to the group; I enjoyed both of them although, to be honest, I have no idea which was playing at any given time. One has a rich, warm tone while the other has a leaner, more focused one.

It Is What it Is is a really cute tune with a peppy melody line built around rising and falling chromatics. Whiteman is excellent on this one, as are Schwager and Childs, and both the bassist individually and the band as a whole are quite good on the elusive melody and chords of Selohssa (which, it suddenly occurred to me, is assholes spelled backwards!). The solos here are all quite relaxed but also very inventive.

Residue picks up the tempo again with a nice but fairly ordinary bop line. The two saxists have at it again here, and the rhythm section clicks nicely along. Mangoes, on the other hand, is a sort of jazz cha-cha, played solo by Tosoff in the first chorus, followed by Schwager on guitar. Pat and Mike has a nice walking tempo, and is again played by the duo-saxists. Whiteman also plays a good solo with Tosoff backing him.

La Belle Époche is another waltz, but a peppier one with a more interesting melody and interesting harmonic twists—not to mention several tempo shifts to 4. Right Here, Right Now With You is a bossa nova in the Jobim manner, opening with soft but rhythmic guitar chords and followed by Tosoff on piano with Childs playing woodblocks. The closer, Dancing With Zeke, is more of a swing than a bop piece, somewhat reminiscent of the kind of tunes that George Shearing played so often back in the 1950s.  

A nice album, then, particularly worth hearing for Whiteman, Tosoff and the two saxists.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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Read my book, From Baroque to Bop and Beyond: An extended and detailed guide to the intersection of classical music and jazz

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