Live at Sweet Basil
A few measures into "Bounce," the opening tune on Live at Sweet Basil, and it becomes obvious that Cecil Brooks III digs Art Blakey. The writing (the tune is a Brooks original), the drumming, the dynamics and the leadership all reflect the Jazz Messengers. Here and throughout the CD, the performances swing, the music's uplifting, the cats are playing their hearts out and there's a whole lot of listening going on. Joie de vivre without pontification.
Brooks has veteran John Hicks in the piano chair-definitely a rhythmic asset of great measure-and Dwayne Dolphin on bass. Up front, it's Riley Mullins on trumpet and Don Braden on tenor saxophone. Mullins burns on "Bounce," busy and agile in the mode of Clifford Brown and Booker Little. Hicks drives hard, and Braden exhibits considerable emotional energy leading into Brooks' loose, parading drum solo.
The horns each play a ballad, Braden rolling and bluesy on "Chelsea Bridge," Mullins romantic and reminiscent of the '50s on "But Beautiful." Nice trumpet vibrato. Two other cuts complete the album: "Mood Swings" seesaws atmospherically in a minor key (Brooks is not reticent in stoking the fire) and "Vamp for Cho" alternates between big beat cooking and suspended, free-form interludes. The in-person setting lends a spirited edge to all these performances. Wish I'd been there.