Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

One For All: Optimism

Optimism is the right name for this date by the Jazz Messenger-flavored One for All. Too many of the sextet’s numerous young contemporaries affect a studied, cynical stance in revisiting the Art Blakey ensemble tradition and appropriating hard bop solo styles; I admit I’m getting tired of their pseudo-jadedness and lack of imagination. But One for All brings soul, fire, and an optimistic spirit to the bandstand.

The group leaps out of the chute with trombonist Steve Davis’ title cut; the composer grabs the lead with a bright, J.J. Johnson-inspired solo. Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander follows with supple runs and swirls, and then trumpeter Jim Rotondi jumps in with a boppish excitement that characterizes his playing throughout the session. The rhythm section-pianist David Hazeltine, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Joe Farnsworth-is a responsive unit that knows when to quicken the pulse of a soloist and when to just ‘comp in the groove.

The rest of the performances-standards such as “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” “What Kind of Fool Am I?,” and “These Foolish Things” and originals such as Alexander’s uptempo “Straight Up,” Hazeltine’s warm “Pearl’s,” and Rotondi’s “The Prevaricator”-also maintain high standards of enthusiasm and technique. “These Foolish Things,” the last track, is by a quintet that includes Farnsworth’s late brother James, formerly of the Ray Charles band, on baritone saxophone.

Originally Published