If for no ther reason than he's giving orchids to the neglected legacy of the late trombonist/composer Melba Liston (who died in 1999 at the age of 74), the Chicago-based saxophonist Geof Bradfield deserves our attention. It just so happens that in this release he's composed a good little suite of peices that touch on Liston's considerable artistic journey, and turned his fine septet loose on it. Bradfield's pieces are sturdy, and most would stand on their own in a live setting. He's celebrating Liston, rather than isolating the trombonist or the composer/arranger.
Trombonist Joel Adams has the feature on "Kansas City Child," denoting Liston's place of birth. It's as much a dirge as anything, with ominous malets-on-tom-toms underneath Adam's expressive, heart-clutching lament. Bradfield saves the 4/4 swing for "Central Avenue," where Liston began to make her way in the tough, competitive jazz of 1940's Los Angeles. Guitarist Jeff Parker's single-note guitar solo and his reflective work elsewhere might suprise some of his avant-garde fans. Bradfield's bopping tenor, Ryan Cohan's contrapuntal piano, and Victor Garcia's lovely Dorhamesque trumpet make for a wonderfully evocative cut.
"Dizzy Gillespie" (for one of Liston's most ardent champions) alternates between a rambunctious "Manteca"-type vamp and a poignant flugelhorn vehicle. Drummer George Fludas bashes on the former, while Garcia's work is alternately soulful and somewhat stratosphereic. Bradfield's proclivity for swirling, fugue-like writing is best showcased on this piece. Musical Africana surfaces in "Randy Weston," as Bradfield's bass clarinet and Clarck Sommers' bass provide a virile rhythmic anchor. Bradfield has assembled a heartfelt tribute and, although the short vocal ballad "Let Me Not Lose My Dream" is almost over before it begins, an impressive statement.