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The Bob Montgomery/Al Hermann Quintet: On the Brink

What a refreshingly uncomplicated project: five souls, all steeped in the joys of jazz, all united by a dedication to a relaxed brand of postbop based on great lines by contemporary musicians. The nucleus is a mellifluous blending of Montgomery’s flug-sounding trumpet and Hermann’s fluid trombone, backed by guitarist Dave Corbus, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Chris Lee. Each track is a highlight; there seems to be no let-up in the virtuosity, so picking high points in this heady mix is a random exercise. Take Benny Golson’s line, “Killer Joe,” for example. The playing, as with all other tracks, is crisp and surgically precise. The intervals between Montgomery and Hermann waver from thirds and sixths to frequent fourths. Hermann’s humor is intact, suddenly interpolating “Old Devil Moon.” Walker doesn’t merely walk; he tends to skip, jauntily, but always swings. The writing and playing compete on equal footing for Neal Hefti’s “Girl Talk” as Corbus’ guitar and Hermann’s trombone meander independently through Montgomery’s lead, but vertically, at any given point, they form some fascinating chords. “Solar,” by Miles, and “Antigua,” by Roland Prince, are given way-up bossa treatments, and both seem to float over Walker’s nimble plucking. As a soloist, he scores on the head of “Collard Greens & Black-Eyed Peas” by fellow bassist Oscar Pettiford, and as a gap-filler on Tadd Dameron’s “Ladybird.” Bobby Jaspar’s “Bobby’s Minor,” taken at a bright, stimulating tempo, provides a solo format for all five instrumentalists. Perhaps the most honest title among the 13 tracks is an original co-written by Montgomery and Hermann, “Talkin’,” in which trumpet and trombone engage in a fascinating, unaccompanied dialogue that is basically call-and-response. The only flaw is its brevity: just over a minute. Like the album itself, the talkin’ could have gone on ad infinitum.

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