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New Faces: Straight Forward (Posi-Tone)

Review of album from collective of emerging artists on the Posi-Tone record label

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Cover of New Faces album Straight Forward on Posi-Tone Records
Cover of New Faces album Straight Forward on Posi-Tone Records

Several other contemporary jazz labels—Blue Note and Mack Avenue come to mind—delight in taking their up-and-comers and placing them in a room together to see what happens and, presumably, re-up the company identity. For Posi-Tone, that means the sextet of Josh Lawrence (trumpet), Roxy Coss (saxophone), Behn Gillece (vibes) and a rhythm section consisting of Theo Hill (piano), Peter Brendler (bass) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums). The 11-song set is produced by label boss Marc Free, who informs in a press release that the band’s instructions were to first revisit material from previous Posi-Tone releases, then work up some new repertoire.

Both halves are equally solid. While the group itself may be a new and, presumably, temporary entity, its components share a sensibility (perhaps summed up by the album’s two-word title). “Happy Juice,” composed by pianist Jon Davis, briefly places the focus on Lawrence, Coss and Gillece, each of whom offers concise, tightly drawn solos, but doesn’t neglect to emphasize the strengths of the ensemble. That tack holds throughout. “West Village,” from organist Brian Charette, finds Lawrence, working his mute, and Gillece trading off before Coss finds a harmony that suits her, and Art Hirahara’s “I’m OK” allows Hill to open up wide, pointing the way for the sax, vibes and trumpet submissions that occupy the jam’s second half.

Of the new material, two tunes by Lawrence, the briskly rendered “Hush Puppy” and the Latin-grooving “Frederico,” are particularly sparkling, while the three Gillece inclusions shoot for greater complexity and interactivity. “Follow Suit,” the album’s penultimate tune, is a corker, evidence on its own that any one of these players is worth pursuing outside of the all-star setting.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Straight Forward by New Faces on iTunes.

Read Ted Panken’s profile of saxophonist Roxy Coss from the June 2017 issue of JazzTimes.

Originally Published