State of Emergency!
The title State of Emergency! represents neither a political statement nor a fresh assessment of the first Tony Williams Lifetime record. Instead, it refers to the nor’easter that hit Connecticut in early 2011, during the sessions for this album. Despite the poor conditions, two of Nat Reeves’ students from the Jackie McLean Institute—Joshua Bruneau (trumpet) and Jonathan Barber (drums)—joined the bassist and pianist Rick Germanson for a straight-ahead session that cooks without regard for the outside elements. Reeves, whose sideman activities began with Sonny Stitt and include the late McLean, comes off less like a leader here and more like a catalyst. Even on bass-centric tunes like Oscar Pettiford’s “Laverne Walk” and Ron Carter’s “Little Waltz,” when he decides to use some solo space his cohorts still get plenty of room to play.
The weather conditions didn’t allow the group any rehearsal time, so much of the 11-track program consists of well-known standards. In light of that, the group as a whole pushes itself to make the set sound anything but routine. Back-to-back tracks “I Love You” and “I Could Write a Book” evoke ’50s-era Miles, especially with Bruneau’s Harmon mute on the latter. But the trumpeter’s ideas, here as well as throughout the set, reach beyond homage. Reeves takes the head in the former, granting the rendition an alternate mood. Germanson takes “Moon River” uptempo and adds an aggressive interlude, fitting in a quote from the haunting standard “Temptation.” It all proves that Reeves must be a great teacher in addition to being a rock-solid player.