John McNeil & Bill McHenry: Rediscovery

By the evidence of their debut recording, trumpeter John McNeil and tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry may not have a grand plan for their Rediscovery project. Employing tunes associated with Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Russ Freeman, George Wallington and Wilbur Harden, the co-leaders appear to be recasting cool-school and hard-bop material, both familiar and obscure, for a stripped-down two horns, bass and drums quartet. Mission accomplished, for the most part.

But Rediscovery also finds room for two uncharacteristic originals as well as a tune by the musician’s musician Danny Hayes that also falls outside the chronological boundaries set by the other material. No matter. Unity of purpose thankfully takes a back seat to enthusiasm. The co-leaders are obviously having a blast “rediscovering” favored tunes for the recording studio.

Clever new arrangements refresh the settings but never deconstruct them: This may not be your grandfather’s “Godchild” or “Happy Little Sunbeam,” but there’s still plenty left of the originals to jolt your memory into a compare-and-contrast mode. May Rediscovery volume two follow soon, no matter what form its imaginative creators concoct.