Sheryl Bailey eloquently salutes a fellow guitarist, the late Emily Remler, on A New Promise, and, not surprisingly, Wes Montgomery by extension. “East to Wes,” the first of three Remler compositions to surface on the album, finds Bailey fluidly evoking Montgomery’s octaves-gliding touch and Remler’s strong stylistic ties to the guitar legend. The mood is relaxed and groove-rooted, of course—how could a spot-on Remler/Montgomery-inspired performance be otherwise? Yet there’s nothing off-the cuff about the performance or John Wilson’s big-band arrangement. In fact, the unusually colorful treatment is punctuated by a Mike Tomaro-devised guitar, trombone and soprano soli section that mirrors and amplifies Remler’s recorded solo. Suffice it to say that Wilson and Tomaro, who share arranging duties throughout this session, are always mindful of the sort of details that ultimately distinguished an orchestrated collaboration.
As for Bailey, whose influences also include the likes of Kenny Burrell and Pat Martino, if she was ever the least bit hesitant about engaging in this big-band enterprise, there’s no sign of it. She sails effortlessly, for example, through “Carenia,” another Remler piece, stringing together single-note lines over samba rhythms, weaving in and out of the harmonies created by brass and reeds with ease and precision. Tomaro, who penned most of the arrangements here, also deftly enhances Bailey’s compositions. They include the album’s haunting, soulfully harmonized title track and the surging postbop romp “Unified Field,” which features guest Hendrik Meurkens on vibes.