January/February 2003

Bud Shank Sextet
On the Trail

Regard is a clear bond between alto saxophonist Bud Shank and trumpeter Conte Candoli on the new Bud Shank Sextet release On the Trail (Raw). Recorded months before Candoli's death in 2001, it serves as the final mile marker for a long-standing relationship (both Candoli and Shank played with the Lighthouse All-Stars in the mid-'50s). On the Trail also further establishes both musicians' credibility beyond the realm of limpid "West Coast jazz." Shank seems self-conscious of this stereotype, as his Silver Storm ensemble carves an imaginary path through the rugged West-with fare like the bright original "Buster's Last Stand," Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo" and the title track (appropriated from Ferde Grofe's "Grand Canyon Suite"). The alto saxophonist employs a tart yet full-bodied tone-his closest cousin in this regard is fellow bop survivor Phil Woods-and evinces the resourcefulness of a true improviser. He also calls upon a strong rhythm section (pianist Bill Mays and drummer Joe LaBarbera are standouts), and a winning coupling with Candoli. There's a too-brief moment on Johnny Mandel's "Tommyhawk" when the two lock horns in a brilliant friction, each goading the other to greater heights and depths.

Originally published in January/February 2003
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