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Bobby Bradford/Mark Dresser/Glenn Ferris: Live in L.A.

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The album title is a bit misleading. Bobby Bradford (cornet), Mark Dresser (bass) and Glenn Ferris (trombone) did make this recording in the City of Angels in 2009. But they were performing in trombonist Bruce Fowler’s living room, not in front of an audience. It marked the first time these likeminded musicians played together since the late ’70s heyday of Bradford’s Little Big Horn performance space in Altadena, Calif., where they first crossed paths. The time apart did nothing to diminish the chemistry here, and this music definitely feels alive.

Ferris, whose credits include both Frank Zappa and Harry James, stands out among his friends. His solos get deliciously gruff in the way he growls on top of notes; in a few cases he practically vocalizes in a rasp while blowing the horn. Despite such avant-garde tendencies, two of Ferris’ compositions provide this session with its more straightforward moments. “Purge” is a bluesy dirge (in spirit if not in form) with plenty of dirty ‘bone work and exchanges with Bradford. “In My Dream” is a bright line driven by strong walking from Dresser.

Bradford, musical partner of the late clarinetist John Carter, keeps his execution clean compared to Ferris, but he delivers his ideas with a sound that feels appropriately rough around the edges. Dresser acts solidly as an anchor between the two. Whether he’s playing the head along with them or bowing a vamp, he brings a cohesive quality to the session. “Bamboo Shoots,” one of two tracks credited to all three players, feels like a mapped-out tone poem rather than a spontaneous invention, largely due to the way Dresser’s arco performance gives it shape. In toto, this set’s a clinic in picking up where you left off.

Originally Published