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Benny Golson: New Time, New ’Tet

Nearly a decade after former co-leader Art Farmer’s death, 80-year-old tenor master Benny Golson has rounded up a new Jazztet, writing new charts and charting a distinctly new course for the relaunch. Golson has reconfigured his signature Jazztet with jazz vets who likely first encountered the fabled tracks of 1959-62 on their original vinyl.

The 2009 ‘Tet meshes instantly with Jazz Messenger panache on Steve Davis’ “Grove’s Groove.” Horns harmonize richly on the head as Mike LeDonne clanks a lazy, bluesy vamp underneath. Davis, the youngest lion in this pride, takes the first solo on trombone, soulful and relaxed, before Golson announces himself with just a little more bite. On trumpet, Eddie Henderson is pure nonchalant grace filling Farmer’s shoes before LeDonne kicks things up a notch, seemingly driven to pour all 88 keys into every utterance. We hear from the rest of the rhythm section, Buster Williams soloing formidably on bass, Carl Allen lurking tastefully on drums.

Surprises are strewn along our path as Golson temporarily disregards Broadway (remember “This Nearly Was Mine” on Another Git Together?) in favor of Verdi and Chopin. “L’Adieu” with Henderson’s muted trumpet gives Chopin’s waltz the flavor of a soused saloon song before it veers toward classic Miles Davis Quintet. “Verdi’s Voice” began life as the overture to La Forza del Destino, but Golson jerks it into Latin territory before Henderson waltzes it around and joyously shakes it loose in a swinging 4/4 release. Even Golson’s familiar standard “Whisper Not” is served with a twist. Al Jarreau crops up for a cool vocal that turns hot, with liberal scat seasoning, in his second chorus, as soon as Benny’s patented jazz-march rhythm swells up behind him. Rollins’ “Airegin” takes a while to reach cruising gear, but Monk’s “Epistrophy” opens itself lovingly to the Jazztet horns.

Originally Published