Saxophonist and composer Gregory Dudzienski is Chicago's most eloquent proponent of the mid-20th century jazz sound. His lean and elegant compositions, warm and soulful tone, and expressive playing mark his work that is rooted in tradition yet refreshingly modern. The seven originals on Beautiful Moments are no exception.
The swaggering vamps of the opener, "Dexter's Laboratory," set the mood for the entire album. Dudzienski embellishes the catchy theme with agile and intelligent lines—leading to pianist Chris White's expansive and moving improvisation. The laid-back mood is enhanced by the effervescent cadence of the rhythm section over which Dudzienski weaves his charming song. The remarkable synergy within the quartet makes this performance all the more charming.
In contrast, "Meeting Your Heroes" is tenser with an expectant ambiance. It opens with drummer Jeff Stitely's percolating, reverberating beats which, together with Dudzienski's yearning tenor and White's resonant chords, infuses the tune with a dramatic sense. Dudzienski's graceful and emotive extemporization is laced with warm tones and reserved passion. Bassist Kelly Sill follows with a lyrical solo as White and Stitely support him with haunting refrains. The ensemble members seamlessly merge their individual voices for a suave return to the memorable head.
Dudzienski is a democratic leader and he allows his sidemen ample room in the spotlight. This is best heard on the title track, an exciting and brightly hued piece. White showcase his muscular and mellifluous pianism and Sill coaxes out of his strings a thrilling and virtuosic spontaneous melody. Dudzienski brings the toe-tapping tune to its conclusion with panache and gusto.
Although not a groundbreaker, Dudzienski's second release as a leader is a highly enjoyable recording that demonstrates the saxophonist's and his sidemen's superb musicianship. Moreover, it captivates from the first note to the last—leaving the listener wanting more of this delightful music.