*** 1/2 MIKE FAHN "Steppin' Out" Cexton CR2288
Here are four extraordinary musicians who deserve more acclaim than they have earned. Fahn is without question one of the few contemporary masters of the valve trombone. Patitucci, of course, has distinguished himself with Chick Corea playing both acoustic and electric bass with equal dexterity. He is also a composer of great promise and was responsible for five originals in this set.
Tad Weed, who composed "My Love," combines chops and imagination in this admirable acoustic group. Peter Donald rounds out the quartet efficiently, except where his drum solo shatters the mood at one point. The production is careless: the titles are listed in the wrong order. The last four cuts are actually "Nardis" followed by "Tenderness," "Love" and Monk's "Well You Needn't." Recording (at Chick Corea's Mad Hatter Studios in Hollywood) is first rate.
Mike Fahn at this writing is on the road as a sideman with Maynard Ferguson. He deserves prominence on his own; it is to be hoped that this splendid album will help expedite that objective.
*** PHAROAH SANDERS "A Prayer Before Dawn" Theresa Tr 127
From the company that doesn't know how to spell saxophone comes a strange, slow motion CD by a saxophonist better known for more adventurous flights. He is backed mainly by William Henderson on piano and synthesizer. There is only one Sanders original, along with two Coltrane pieces and, of all things, "The Christmas Song" (he didn't quite get the melody right) and Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way." This low key set, simplistic and accessible, is hardly likely to be remembered a few months hence.
***** COUNT BASIE "The Legend, the Legacy" Denon CY 73790
Here is the current Basie band in all its glory. At one point or another every man in this dazzling outfit has a solo, and most are of commendable quality. Carmen Bradford, in a ballad ("Young and Foolish") and a blues, again has a chance to remind us that she is one of the most underrated singers of the past decade. Frank Foster's 17 minute "Remembrance Suite" captures the most contagious moods and blends of the latter day orchestra; note particularly the superb sax solo passage in the third movement. This was the late Eric Dixon's final credit with the band: He wrote two of the charts. Don't pass up this example of a great ensemble that is doing posthumous justice to the man who created it.
*** 1/2 FRANK MORGAN "Mood Indigo" Antilles 7 91320-2
Morgan's initial Antilles set offers some bright moments, among them two guest appearances by Wynton Marsalis and three duo cuts with George Cables. The material, however, is hardly startling: except for an ad lib blues there are no Morgan originals, and we are treated to the 9,867th version of "Round Midnight." Morgan plays well, but this is hardly his finest hour; there is a lack of focus and consistency to what should have been a significant label debut.
*** GENE HARRIS "Gene Harris & the Philip Morris Superband" Concord Jazz CCD 4397
This all star band that toured the world last fall should have recorded after it had been together for a couple of months, instead of on its very first dig at Town Hall. But it is indeed a phenomenal line-up, with trumpeter Sweets Edison making his eel-like way through "Sleepy Time Down South," Harris himself at the piano in a Frank Wess arrangement of Erroll Garner's "Creme de Menthe," and four vocals--two each by Ernie Andrews and Ernestine Anderson, who sounds as though the charts were written a minor third too low for her.
The gray eminence in this set is John Clayton, who wrote an original ("Serious Grease") as well as skillful arrangements on five standards. No, he doesn't play bass here, but his mentor, Ray Brown, does, in a rhythm section that includes Harris, Herb Ellis and Jeff Hamilton. All in all, a performance that falls just a little short of its potential, but not without many admirable moments.
*** 1/2 TERRY GIBBS "Bopstacle Course" Xanadu 210
Gibbs was in good company on this belated release (taped in 1974), with Barry Harris' piano as a stimulating foil for his vibraphone. He emerges with composer credits for the engaging "Kathleen" and the pretty "Waltz for My Children." Sam Jones on bass and Alan Dawson on drums, round out this no-nonsense be-bop quartet.