Guy Fricano: The Chicago Sessions

Fricano is a power trumpeter from Chicago whose background includes stints in the bands of Maynard Ferguson and Buddy Rich. In this CD on his own label he demonstrates, amply, his range and volume. He is at least as impressive in quieter moments. On his “Song for Johanna” and “So Happy” and on Pete Christlieb’s “With Any Luck at All,” his brass muscle ripples under a surface of lyricism. The back cover notes say that Fricano plays a borrowed flugelhorn for the latter two. He might want to borrow it again; the instrument brings out a lovely reflective aspect of his work. “Song for Johanna” and “So Happy,” a waltz on original changes, show a bent for composition. Fricano’s basic unit is his sextet, but for some pieces he expands the band with guests. His expansion partners are tenor saxophonist Christlieb, trumpeter Conte Candoli and alto saxophonist Richie Cole.

To one who has not heard Cole for several years, his playing here comes as a welcome surprise. He has stripped it of most of the exhibitionism and hip corniness that clouded his musicianship in the days when he seemed to be everywhere at once. His few remaining exaggerated mannerisms barely distract from his mature style. His solo on “Seven Steps to Heaven” is first rate. Candoli’s solos and his jousts with Fricano reemphasize that one of the greatest of Dizzy Gillespie’s first-generation descendants is still among us and playing beautifully. Christlieb’s dynamic unfolding of his improvisational line on “With Any Luck at All” is typical of the work of a tenor player greatly admired by his peers and too little known by listeners. Pianists Ben Lewis and Dennis Luxion, drummer Robert Shy and bassist Anthony Brock admirably carry most of the rhythm section load.