Two years after Heads of Tales , a searing date backed by Jared Gold, Mark Ferber and David Allen, tenor saxman Tom Tallitsch returns with another strong crew for Ride (March 4, Posi-Tone Records), in fact arguably even more so: Rudy Royston on drums, Art Hirahara on piano, Peter Brendler on bass and the phenomenal Michael Dease on trombone.
The change-up in instrumentation does nothing to change Tallitsch’s mission of evangelizing the hard bop form through the bell of his saxophone. Ride swings and grooves with flawless proficiency by guys who aren’t just going through the motions. Tallitsch’s traditionally minded saxophone diction never forgets that soul is an important part of it, but so is forgetting a lick once it’s played, too. That’s why he can go a while on a solo as he does on “El Luchador” and keep it interesting all the way through. And he can swing like the old masters, amply demonstrated on cuts like “The Giving Tree.”
Dease isn’t present on every track, but when he’s called in to help, he provides the perfect foil, and his solos on “El Luchador,” “Turtle” and especially “Knuckle Dragger” are fluid and full of character but in a graceful way. The rhythm section makes a lot of hay on the spicier numbers like “The Myth,” and Royston leaves behind a show stopping display on drums during his break on “Ride,” while Hirahara shines on “The Path.” Also during “The Path,” Brendler’s against-the-grain bass line offers up a funky counterpoint.
During the last go-around Tallitsch adapted a song from a rock icon (Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”) into the jazz form the right way, by embracing the core melody. He does this again on Ride, putting his own stamp on David Bowie’s lofty gem “Life On Mars” and Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti deep cut, the splendidly downtrodden “Ten Years Gone.” On the former tune, Tallitsch’s sax takes on the vocal role, his sax accurately locating the emotional center of the song. For the Page/Plant song, he doubles with Dease to give it a late 60s Jazz Crusaders-type groove, but one that maintains the original’s serious tone.
New personnel and backup instrumentation doesn’t matter; Ride is another sturdy, deft straight-ahead affair from Tom Tallitsch.
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