It’s most encouraging to hear some of jazz’s senior citizens (Sonny Rollins, James Moody, Lee Konitz, Clark Terry and Hank Jones, among others) remaining active and creative in their sunset years. At age 78, trombonist Benny Powell may have lost a step or two with regard to his solo work on Nextep, his first recording in five years, yet he’s still out there offering an abundance of music worth hearing with an often sprightly, burnished sound, and is clearly not slowing down.
With widely varied music tinged by New Orleans, South African, Brazilian and Caribbean rhythms, the blues and bop, Powell and sidemen T.K. Blue, alto and soprano saxes, flute; Sayuri Goto, piano; Essiet O. Essiet, bass, and Billy Hart, drums, move through this batch of original works with a relaxed grace and charm. Of particular interest throughout are the solos of Blue (Kalib Kibwe), who negotiates each of his instruments with verve, easygoing energy and feeling.
While Goto is clearly a talented player, there are times when her work becomes a bit too literal, particularly in her comping. Rhythm players with the credentials of Essiet and Hart require no special mention. Powell contributed only one of the 10 tunes, with Blue offering five, Goto three and the leader’s ex-wife, Petsye, one. The standout tracks are Blue’s “Another Blue” and “A Single Tear of Remembrance,” Powell’s “You Got It” and Goto’s “Best People.”