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Bill Cunliffe/Gary Foster: It’s About Love

Marketing a CD of original tunes by an unknown writer is quite a challenge. But pianist Bill Cunliffe and saxophonist Gary Foster, along with bassist Jeff D’Angelo and drummer Tim Pleasant, provide a smooth introduction to composer Reed Kotler.

Cunliffe provided charts for all 13 tracks on the day of the session. Now we’re not talking about a L.A. Philharmonic-size band, but Kotler does not write simple changes and he does not always write in basic forms. “Song for Bill C” is not AABA, for example-it’s cast in ABCD-but as Kotler observes, it “seems to hang together quite nicely.” Occasionally, he’ll base a melody on complex changes, such as “Nine Steps,” which uses the same chord progressions as Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” but as Kotler points out, in his melody “over every major seventh chord, the first note is the ninth degree of the chord, hence the name.”

First-call Foster has never sounded better. Every track is a highlight, but he seems to outdo himself on the beauty of his alto tone on the ballad “Thoughts of You,” and Cunliffe provides a robust gospel flavor for “Thank You Lord, Amen.” On “Spring Is Near,” a ho-hum swinger that Cunliffe and Foster take a couple of jazz choruses on, the saxophonist begins the out chorus on the bridge and the pianist adds a contrapuntal line. Counterpoint was precisely the excitement that was needed.

Originally Published