Bill Cantrall – Live at the Kitano (2012)

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Trombonist Bill Cantrall’s new concert recording gets going fast, with a hard-blowing track called “BBM” that will have you recalling those primary-colored Blue Note sides by Art Blakey and Horace Silver.

Cantrall, joined again by many of the figures from his terrific 2007 debut, ends up taking five scalding choruses — in an old-school showing of blowing-session prowess. He ducks and moves, works in polytonal thrusts and then with more delicate shadings. You hear some Jimmy Heath, in the bold harmonizations; some Roland Hanna, in Cantrall’s moments of penetrating beauty; some Steve Davis, in the way he consistently uncovers new things in the bebop form.

All have been direct influences on Cantrall, a Chicago native who migrated to New York City some 15 years ago. Since, the trombonist has gone from intriguing sideman to commanding bandleader — something nowhere more evident than on Live at the Kitano, due July 24, 2012, from Up Swing.

Cantrall is joined here on an originals-packed 2010 set (Cole Porter’s little-covered “After You,” the lone cover, is given a hip bossa nova sheen) by saxophonist Stacy Dillard, pianist Rick Germanson, bassist Gerald Cannon and drummer Darrell Green. “BBM” and the later minor-key “Sharphead” are both new compositions, while the rest are from ’07’s Axiom. Altoist Mike DiRubbo and trumpeter Freddie Hendrix join the quartet during a daring, model-themed 24-minute workout of the title track.

Another of the album’s high points arrives in the form of their blistering excursion through the Jazz Messenger-ish “Like I Said,” which finds Germanson moving with power and grace through a series of funky bars. Even as the rhythm section of Cannon and Green — who’s worked with Red Holloway, Pharoah Sanders and Lonnie Smith — race along with heart-splashing authority we find Dillard playing with a bluesy grit.

Standing in the middle, and absolutely tearing a hole in the thing, is Cantrall. Now, don’t get the idea that he can’t pull off cool and collected (notably on this album’s lovely reimaging of “Shaniece,” also from the 2007 debut), but even then Cantrall adds interesting tonal shifts and deceptively complex voicings.

My only complaint is that we’ve had to wait so long for this collection. Here’s hoping the follow up to Kitano isn’t so long in the making.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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