One possible sunny jazz underside to the COVID-19 pandemic could be enhanced artistic control, in an era where self-produced recordings were already becoming prevalent. Taking advantage of a lengthy enforced break from touring, the all-star quintet of veteran saxophonist David Liebman, trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist Marc Copland, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Joey Baron have created a joyful noise on the new, independently released Quint5T.
On the opening “Mystery Song,” Baron switches between brushes and sticks to guide Copland’s supportive chords, a creative bowed middle solo by Gress, and the alternating solos, squawks, and interplay of Liebman and Brecker. The Charlie Parker-inspired “Off a Bird” is even more unpredictable, as the saxophonist and trumpeter defy convention by soloing simultaneously when they’re not harmonizing with one another. Parts of the free-form piece recall Liebman’s tenure in Miles Davis’ band during the first half of the 1970s. As does the sashaying “Child at Play,” on which Liebman’s soprano dances, Brecker’s trumpet punctuates, the rhythm section provides the perfect undercurrent, and Copland’s middle solo stands out.
Other highlights include the bopping “Broken Time,” which gets a reprise further in, and the reverent ode “There’s a Mingus Amonk Us,” featuring storytelling breaks by the horn players and Baron; a provocative, Thelonious-inspired solo by Copland; and Gress gluing the proceedings together à la Mingus. This quintet may consist of 60- and-70-something musicians, but it’s clear that no virus could push any of them into retirement.