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John Bailey Time Bandits (Freedom Road)

In his new album, trumpeter John Bailey shines with old and new tunes.

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Cover of Time Bandits

John Bailey established himself as a stalwart trumpeter and flugelhornist for bands fronted by the likes of Buddy Rich, Ray Charles, and Arturo O’Farrill, waiting until age 52 to record under his own name. He is respected enough to be able to cherry-pick his cohorts, and for Time Bandits, his third headline outing, he has reduced his ensemble size to three sages who have no weaknesses: pianist George Cables, bassist Scott Colley, and drummer Victor Lewis. 

Half of the 10 songs are Bailey originals, and two of them bracket the well-calibrated program with distinctive energy. The opening title composition has Bailey playing with the brash, staccato-bop lyricism of Dizzy Gillespie, coupled with a New Orleans-styled second-line rhythm reminiscent of, albeit different than, the enlivened sophistication Chano Pozo used to provide for Diz. The closing “Groove Samba,” is well-named, but with a rock intensity at its onset and a sharper bounce on the samba rhythm. 

The depth of quality really shows through on the ballads. Bailey’s “Ode To Thaddeus” opts for a graceful yearning instead of the more kinetic music associated with his late friend and fellow trumpeter Thad Jones. The 12-tone-row basis of “Rose” is a welcome change of style and pace, encouraging freer interplay. And “Lullabye,” a Cables composition, is here an exquisite duet with Bailey. 

Cables continues enriching the treasure chest of his artistry. He’ll play the tricky arrangement of Bailey’s “Various Nefarious” verbatim as a solo (and cap it with a quick, sly Monk quote) then deconstruct Jerome Kern’s “Long Ago and Far Away” into a differently beautiful thing. Even his prancing avoids cliché. On Time Bandits, he’s among his peers: This is an album where the solos and the ensemble interplay are equally compelling; durable music fashioned for the old and new days alike.