The previous recording in Andy LaVerne’s large SteepleChase discography (Faith, 2017) featured trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, bassist Mike Richmond, and drummer Jason Tiemann. This new album adds Jerry Bergonzi on tenor saxophone.
Some good news about Shangri-La: Sipiagin and Bergonzi are special players. Sipiagin’s solos are complete bold statements and his tone on both trumpet and flugelhorn is penetrating and pure. Bergonzi’s tenor sound is delightfully impure, full of flutters and abrasions and nasal intensities. LaVerne writes some graceful themes. “Guiding Light” is one of two tunes here for the late John Abercrombie, LaVerne’s friend and collaborator. Sipiagin and Bergonzi take turns with the melody in heartfelt calls and responses, touching new emotions of love and loss on each pass. Nine LaVerne originals, balanced among blues, ballads, and postbop shout-outs, are carefully crafted.