You St.: Live at The State of The Union
While a piano can conceal a multitude of sins committed by a jazz ensemble, it's absence, as Sonny Rollins and others have discovered, can lead to new paths and possibilities.
On You St: Live At State of the Union, the Peter Fraize Quintet prove worthy of the challenge. An outgrowth of Monday night jam sessions at the Washington, D.C. club, the music is consistently fresh and inspired by Fraize's colorful writing for reeds and brass and the improvisatory bent he shares with his bandmates, particularly fellow tenor saxophonist Rob Holmes and trombonist Rick Lillard. Fraize composed nearly all of the tunes, providing each with a distinctive theme, harmonic design and rhythmic momentum. "Jessica" boasts a languorous, warmly shaded melody, while the brashly harmonized theme for the title track grows out a simple bass ostinato. The relaxed gait and piquant harmonies that make "Nana" so appealing provides a sharp contrast to the tumultuous sax and drums duet that introduces "Plain Folk." Meanwhile, echoes of Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane and sundry sax ensembles occasionally filter through the mix.