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Bebop Spoken There

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Friday, April 05, 2019

CD Review: Scott Robinson - Tenormore

Scott Robinson (tenor sax); Helen Sung (piano/B3); Dennis Mackrell (bass/bass guitar); Martin Wind (drums) + Sharon Robinson (flute on 1 tk.).
(Review by Lance).

A fine tenor sax outing for a musician who's at home on any of Adolphe Sax's inventions.
Opening up with an unaccompanied take on Lennon and McCartney's And I Love Her he removes all sentiment from the song treating it as one long cadenza beginning somewhere up in the sopranino range.

His own composition, Tenor Eleven, is a more conventional hard bop blower which displays just how awesome his technique is. There's also space for Helen Sung who knocked everyone for six when she appeared in the UK last year with the Mingus Big Band. Ms. Sung does even better here with the extra space allotted. Robinson himself commented in the album notes: "To me, she's kind of the star of the album. She plays so beautifully on everything; there's a lot to like."


Put on a Happy Face offers contrast with a delicate ballad reading of a song from the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie. As well as the emotive tenor playing, once again, Helen Sung shares the glory, this time with reflective chords and totally sympathetic harmonies. I'm surprised more musicians haven't realised the possibilities of this song.

Morning Star, written by Robinson as a Valentine's Day gift for his wife - aah! - has a strong melody that, if someone were to add words, it would reopen the GASbook. Listen also to Helen. Maybe next Valentine's Day Scott will loan me the tune and I'll dedicate it to this lovely lady on piano! There's also a fine solo from Wind but I ain't sending him no Valentines!

The Good Life begins with some free improvisation which does nothing to enhance the tune but once that's out of the way more fine tenor playing follows. Robinson's vibrato hangs on the end of a note just deep enough to enhance the tone without sounding maudlin or dated. And Helen's few bars at the end - the icing on the cake.

Tenor Twelve is another Robinson original - a swinger straight out of a recording studio in Hackensack NJ circa 1958. At the risk of becoming a bore, Helen's praises must be sung  once more, she can kick ass with the best of them. Drums also put the boot in and bass doesn't get lost in the shake-up. Indeed it's Wind who composed Rainy River. Our pianist switches to B3 for this one, Robinson is soulful, and the composer lays down one of the more meaningful double bass solos. It has a churchy feel and the leader's solo ends up in the direction of heaven. 

There are some spoken words at the start of Robinson's The Weaver as well as some flute from Sharon Robinson - Scott's wife. Helen switches stools and weaves some intricate  piano patterns that are made even more compelling when Sharon re-enters the fray - a tour de force!

The Nearness of You: Cool tenor, B3, bass guitar, some metronomic drumming and the funkiest workout ever for Hoagy's classic.

Finally, the title track, Tenormore brings an intriguing rotation of combinations between all four players. Mackrell/Robinson/Sung/Wind - perm any 2 from 4. Simply stupendous!
Lance.
Available today (April 5) on Arbors Records.

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