For his debut recording as a leader, trombonist Marshall Gilkes gives himself the widest possible exposure. Every tune is his save for Rogers and Hammerstein’s “This Nearly Was Mine.” Pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Johnathan Blake provide solid accompaniment and play with energy, and Gilkes takes plenty of solo space. The nicely contoured set runs smoothly from Afro-Cuban to bop to ballads, and it all sounds pretty good, but the CD wouldn’t stand out from 100 other adequately crafted mainstream jazz records if not for Gilkes.
Trombonists built for the speed, jumps and tight turns of bebop don’t seem to be falling out of trees these days (if they ever did), so it’s really refreshing to come across a player like Gilkes. His impressive facility on the awkward horn puts him in the J.J. Johnson lineage. He sounds fine on the ballads, where he plays with the slightest hint of terminal vibrato, but his ripe tone and aggressive soloing on the faster numbers really stand out. Look no farther than the interval-leaping opening melodic statement on the recording’s first tune, “Puddle Jumping.” Bebop trombone enthusiasts (if you’re out there), you might want to check this out.