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Metta Quintet: Going To Meet the Man

For the past six years, the Brooklyn-based, nonprofit, educational organization JazzReach has been reaching out to educate youngsters about America’s indigenous music-jazz. Founded by drummer H. Benjamin Schuman, the organization has demonstrated the art form to thousands and thousands of eager young students in all kinds of venues where it can present the history of jazz through live and audio-visual means.

Now-thanks again to Schuman’s tireless fund-raising efforts-JazzReach has its first CD, Going to Meet the Man, a tribute to the writings of James Baldwin, by Metta Quintet, the resident ensemble of the association.

The CD title stems from a collection of Baldwin’s short stories, and the title track happens to boast the best arrangement, which is by Larry Goldings. But the writing is the weakest aspect of Going to Meet the Man. Many tracks consist of unison lines by tenor Mark Turner and guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, a lack of imagination that can become wearying. A Brad Mehldau chart, “The Rockpile,” provides an antidote as altoist Mark Gross displays the most impassioned blowing of the session, and on the title tune Gross’ sax and George Colligan’s piano actually travel in different directions, providing some linear relief.

Colligan’s decision to blend his Hammond B-3, Turner’s tenor, Joshua Ginsburg’s low-register acoustic bass and Rosenwinkel’s doubling on piano for “Out of the Wilderness” proves to be so muddy and cluttered that any attempt to swing is hampered, even in spite of Schuman’s heroic drumming.

Maybe Metta Quintet will find the fire next time.

Originally Published