Gregg August: Late August

The bristling Afro-Cuban rhythms and precise, emphatic playing on Gregg August’s debut release make it special–and much more than a disjointed, unconnected set of tunes. Instead, there’s a conceptual unity that links these cuts despite the fact that all nine numbers don’t feature the same personnel. But when your special guests include the great conguero Ray Barretto (who is outstanding on “Sweet Maladie”) and masterful tenor saxophonist Frank Wess (who plays fantastic on “Deceptions”), the music won’t be routine. August also wrote all the numbers, and his compositions reveal the considerable influence of his time working with Latin combos (“Melody in Black and Grey,” “Los Dos Cotos”) and hard-bop ensembles (“Deceptions,” “Work in Progress”).

While mixing and matching sidemen, the core group’s strongest units feature trumpeter John Bailey, alto saxophonist Myron Walden and tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin. August and company constantly keep things shifting between dance-oriented, percolating arrangements and straightahead, exacting works, and this tension is one more thing that makes Late August both an unusual and distinguished offering.