The standard jazz-quintet paradigm, as cemented by Art Blakey's various Jazz Messengers and the classic mid-'60s Miles Davis quintet, has long been an enduring staple of jazz ensemble thinking. By switching trumpet for trombone, Vincent Gardner--best known for his well-deserved chair in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra--lends a refreshing twist to a format we've become all too familiar with (especially since Wynton Marsalis resuscitated it in the early '80s).
Gardner is an impressive, well-rounded trombonist, fleet and nimble in a boppish uptempo zone and blessed with vocalistlike expressivity when elegance is required. For this occasion, Gardner has assembled a fine group, including LCJO colleague Walter Blanding on tenor sax (and occasional soprano), pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Greg Williams and drummer Quincy Davis. They all obviously understand the mission: heeding the time-honored quintet aesthetic, with a balance of conservatism and controlled heat.
"Doomzoom," Gardner's fast-yet-relaxed swinging original, kicks things off with a bounding good cheer, flecked with subtle dissonant left turns. He shines, in a mellow mode, on the balladic "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" and his own easy-grooving "W.M. III." On the turf of cover tunes, Gardner ventures into the seductive maze of Monk's "Four and One," Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo" and John Coltrane's "Liberia." The session's underlying message might be "give the 'bone player some." He deserves the spotlight.