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Joe Magnarelli: Three on Two

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The “three” are the horn guys-Joe Magnarelli on trumpet/flugelhorn, Steve Davis on trombone and Mike DiRubbo on alto saxophone-and the “two” are organist Brian Charette and drummer Rudy Royston. Like several of his previous leader releases-this is his 11th in all, and second for Posi-Tone-the disc places Magnarelli at the heart of a muscular, workmanlike quintet for which skill and flair take precedence over jumping through flaming hoops. You may not come away from Three on Two exclaiming that you’ve just heard the future of jazz, but you’ll know that what you did hear was music played superbly by seasoned pros.

Magnarelli mixes things up-original band-member compositions brush up against music by Debussy, Coltrane and Cedar Walton; organ-dominated segments coexist peacefully with blasts of fiery horn power. On the first of two Trane tracks, “26-2,” it all comes together sensationally. Successive alto, trumpet and trombone solos claim just enough space to establish the expressiveness and quality of chops before Charette drives it home with the kind of dazzle you always want to hear from a B-3. Right before that one, Magnarelli’s “NYC-J-Funk” is all about groove: deliberate, smooth and hip-music to strut to.

Throughout there’s the indelible stamp of swing. Even at their most understated (Davis’ “Easy,” Coltrane’s “Central Park West”), these are five players who never lose the pace. And when they do crank into overdrive-as on Magnarelli’s title track and “Paris”-you can feel the steam rising. Give much of the credit for that to Royston, whose rhythmic potency is matched by his ability to seamlessly slide into nuance.

Originally Published