Concord Jazz announces the debut of Benny Golson's "new jazztet,' a stellar sextet that revives that legendary group's highly regarded three-horn front line along with its classic, tight ensemble work and sophisticated sound.
Led by Grammy "Lifetime Achievement" award winning saxophonist-composer Benny Golson, this version of the jazztet features heavyweight jazz musicians on each instrument: trumpet master, Eddie Henderson; trombone virtuoso, Steve Davis; the brilliant Mike LeDonne, piano; bassist extraordinaire, Buster Williams; and percussion ace, Carl Allen.
NEW TIME, NEW 'TET elaborates the traditional jazztet concept. This album's song choices advance a subtle but genuinely seductive proposal: what if jazz, conventionally defined, is overdue for re-inspection and revision? What if "jazz" and "classical" music are closer in spirit and artistic execution than standard views of their difference comprehend?
NEW TIME, NEW ‘TET is an album with an implied "suite," in which Golson joins new compositions inspired by Giuseppi Verdi and Frederic Chopin to a standard jazz repertoire. The artistic result is philosophical musing that erupts into a street party. At one moment, vocalist Al Jarreau reprises Golson's classic "Whisper Not," while at another moment, we encounter the uproarious (and comic) "Gypsy Jingle-Jangle."
On one side, Sonny Rollins' mainstream "Airegin," on the other side, "Uptown Afterburn." Highlights abound from beginning to end. Golson's haunting and floating "From Dream To Dream" is a brilliant vehicle for trombonist Steve Davis' melodic elegance, while the insistent "Love Me In A Special Way" invokes nobility rare in any art form or cultural moment. If you recall classic film noir themes that often play through Golson's capacious mind, then "Verdi's Voice" awaits your attentive engagement - a composition that resurrects a tradition of songwriting, long gone, designated by the somewhat covert "Bronislau Kaper."
Why renew the Jazztet legacy? For his part, Golson notes that, "the task of re-conceiving a group with the strong identity and powerful longevity of the original jazztet is no obvious matter. The choice of new players is crucial, of course. They must be up to the job of making a new group sound every bit as identifiable and engaging as the earlier band - but not in competition with it. In short, the new Jazztet has to have its own artistic identity while it also carries on the highly acclaimed Jazztet tradition. I think we've done that here."
For three years, between 1960 and the end of 1962, the original co-led Benny Golson-Art Farmer Jazztet made seven albums that sold very well and launched that sextet to a high plateau where gigs at all the best jazz venues awaited. Before that carefully mapped-out group dynamic emerged, featuring new and long popular Golson compositions, Farmer worked mostly on the West Coast with bandleaders Jay McShann, Johnny Otis and Gerald Wilson. On the East Coast he played with saxophonist Gigi Gryce and joined pianist Horace Silver's Quintet. When Farmer and Golson created their now-legendary Jazztet in 1959, jazz was quite possibly at its peak of innovation. In retrospect, it's clear that it's six-man format and tightly integrated voicing launched one of that era's most compelling and artistically enduring ensembles. Its revival now occurs right on time.
NEW TIME, NEW ‘TET is a uniquely engaging suite of songs that give each member of this juggernaut sextet room to blow. Nonetheless, the advance crafted by the new group's audacious ambition -- to link the classical music tradition to the post-bop jazz era -- is achieved by the unit's complex harmonic layering and (for example) the sheer joy by which Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy" romps effortlessly alongside Golson's old-world chart, "Verdi's Voice."
To cap the remarkable Benny Golson's arrival at the 80th anniversary of his birth, the master composer and musician will be honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, four days after the inauguration of our first African-American president, Barack Obama (and the night before his birthday). A star-studded cast that includes Al Jarreau, the Clayton-Hamilton Big Band and a gaggle of surprise guests will celebrate an artist whose life continues to inscribe an unrelenting narrative of achievement as a songwriter, band leader, film score creator, and peerless tenor saxophonist; a great man whose story traverses teenage companionship in Philadelphia with John Coltrane and Jimmy Heath, the onset of professional maturity with Dizzy Gillespie's big band, virtual co-leadership with Art Blakey in an early version of the Jazz Messengers and the fateful brilliance of founding the first Jazztet with his close friend and partner, trumpeter Art Farmer. Benny Golson's career surges on, embracing both coasts of the United States and everywhere in between; traveling across Europe on a constant basis with forays to Japan and points north and south across the globe.
Not unlike Duke Ellington before him, Benny Golson's impact on the world jazz community is extensive and deep. He counts as friends and companions some of the most respected and highest-achieving people on the planet. He is regularly welcomed to the inner sancta of the rich and famous, but wherever Maestro Golson goes, his talent along with his seductively cheerful demeanor; lend warmth and wisdom to his hosts. These journeys and the full scope of "the Golson saga" will be published in the not too distant future: WHISPER NOT: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BENNY GOLSON.