Don't believe what your ears might tell you: there are only four guys on bassist Doug Miller's new album Regeneration.
The versatility and chops on display here, most notably by Jay Thomas, who plays trumpet, flugelhorn, tenor, soprano, and flute on this date, are either inspiring or discouraging, depending on your outlook. Joining Thomas is Miller, who wrote the majority of the album's compositions, Dave Peterson on guitar and keys, and drummer Phil Parisot, who plays on four of the album's eleven cuts.
The most striking thing about this album is the various personnel and instrumentation combinations that Miller creates that provide the listener a wide variety of textures and colors.
My favorite pieces, like the Afro-Cuban "Invitation" and "Ballad for Don and Midge," which includes a melodic arco solo from Miller and an equally lyric tenor solo by Thomas, are performed by the horn/guitar/bass trio. They have a nice relaxed looseness to them and swing with ease.
"Avenue C – Part One" is just bizarre. Miller uses a highly percussive touch that introduces Thomas's (I assume) wailing and gurgling entry on what might be a trumpet mouthpiece being buzzed and vocalized through. Meanwhile, Peterson makes all kinds of campy B sci-fi movie spaceship guitar effects. It then segues right into "Avenue C – Part Two," which swings right along, like nothing happened. This is a weird pairing, and I like it.
The album ends like it begins – with a lively and swinging trumpet/guitar/bass/drums quartet. This final piece, entitled "Lighten Up," is representative of the album as a whole: it's a swinging, inspired, and tasteful good time.