Bass Buddies and Blues
Although centered around the firm, swinging, and properly modulated lines of veteran acoustic bassist Keter Betts, the major impression made by this disc is of an unpretentious group of bop-rooted jazzmen out to play their own music with neither fuss nor fanfare. Ex-Basie trumpeter Pete Minger and former Hampton tenorman Jerry Weldon fill their frontline ensemble and solo roles with a flair and sound reminiscent of the old Dexter Gordon/Freddie Hubbard Blue Notes, while pianist Bill Charlap, guitarist Steve Abshire and drummer Dennis Mackrel punch out the time with both melodic imagination and a sense of urgency. With the exception of "Love for Sale" and the Jobim bossa, "Quiet Nights," all of the tunes are originals by Betts and his sidemen, and all seem to coalesce into a unified, unalloyed conception of jazz head composition. Charlap's balladic "Sophie," because of its uncommon lyricism, deserves special mention. Of the hornmen, Weldon appears to have paid serious attention to 1950s-'60s Basie tenormen Frank Foster, Frank Wess, and Billy Mitchell, while Minger largely remains true to his first love, Hubbard, although he does allude briefly to Miles on his own "Pete's Blues."