Listen to Warren Vaché’s trumpet and John Allred’s trombone as together they dig into the lines of “Old Devil Moon” or “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” The co-leaders sound like they share the same breath, even the same pulse. Problem is, when they reach “Song for My Father,” neither shares the same pulse with Horace Silver. Both Vaché and Allred observe the signature stop-and-go rhythm at the start, only to discard it in their solos. Heresy and sacrilege! Pianist Tardo Hammer, who also leans hard into the line, is complicit in the crime, though his stately solo seems to rouse drummer Leroy Williams from his torpor after the preceding swing tunes.
The quintet’s next incursion into the Silver songbook, “Strollin’,” yields even spongier hard bop. It’s only when we reach Junior Mance’s “Jubilation” that everything clicks outside the Vaché-Allred comfort zone. Not only does the ensemble ignite at the straight-ahead uptempo, Allred crafts an extended solo with a beautifully cogent architecture. Hammer nails his solo as impressively as Vaché here, and bassist Nicki Parrott shines in her most extended instrumental workout. Parrott unveils a velvety voice later on, joshing with Vaché on James P. Johnson’s “Sweet Hunk o’ Trash.” Fair warning: Vaché’s larynx isn’t much of an instrument. Personality props it up.
Luckily, the Jubilation playlist lies mostly within the combo’s pre-’50s comfort zone. Allred cuddles up engagingly with “Change Partners” after sitting out Vaché’s embrace of “My One and Only Love.” Williams revels in the spotlight of the Gershwins’ “Strike Up the Band,” featuring a memorably soft dialogue between the brasses before the final roar. It’s the Ellington-Tizol classic, “Caravan,” that calls upon the utmost of Williams’ artistry, which is considerable.