Listeners can often discern the leader in a recoding date from the first few notes. That's not the case with the Richard Sussman Quintet's Live at Sweet Rhythm
On the opening track, "Waiting," the full band jumps in with both feet. Trumpeter Tom Harrell and saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi ride freely atop the fiesty rhythms laid down by pianist Sussman, bassist Mike Richmond and drummer Jeff Williams. True, the leader steps into the spotlight first. But then Bergonzi delivers a delightful, shivery tenor solo before ceding to Harrell's fiery yet melodic brass. Underneath it all is the propulsive drumming of Williams, who also takes a solo.
This democratic attitude pervades Live at Sweet Rhythm
, which captures the band over two nights in 2003 at the Greenwich Village jazz club. Sussman elicits the best from each player, which hints at their long history. IN 1978, after having recorded the highly regarded album Free Fall
, the quintet disbanded. Of course, the individual musicians moved on to stellar careers as sidemen, educators and solo artists. Still, no matter where he traveled, Sussman would run into musicians and fans who revered the album.
The Sweet Rhythm date was more or less a reunion show, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Free Fall
, as well as its 2003 release on CD. With the exception of Tadd Dameron's "Soultrane" and the Bob Haggart-Johnny Burke chestnut "What's New" (featuring another terrific solo by Harrell), the tunes from these live shows are Sussman compositions. "Tiahuanaco," "Lady of the Lake" and "Free Fall" are numbers revisited from the original recording.
Live at Sweet Rhythm
is truly a group effort. You can hear the joy and zest of the musicians, who listen intently to one another throughout. Even after 25 years apart, the bandmates share an undenialbe synery, which explains the lasting appeal of their sole studio recording.