Liam Sillery invited David Sills to join him on his excellent debut from last year, Minor Changes (OA2). This time out, on his second set as a leader, the New York-based trumpeter/flugelhornist hooks up with the Los Angeles-based player's working quartet: Sills (tenor sax), Joe Bagg (organ), Larry Koonse (guitar) and Tim Pleasant (drums). The two front-line players split the composing chores; four tunes come from Sillery's pen and four more from Sills, along with a classic cover tune, "Ceora," from the late trumpeter and Blue Note artist Lee Morgan.
The words "Blue Note" are key here. As on Minor Changes, On the Fly is steeped in the mainstream tradition -- the Joe Henderson/Hank Mobley sound, a quintet with two horns in front. The main different this time out is that Sillery and Sills are working in front of an organ trio, giving the grooves a more airy and buoyant feeling, a smoother and cooler flow.
The set is a great argument for working with a working group. There's an easy rolling sympatico to the music, a lubricated, clicked-into-the-groove feeling often missing in "thrown together band" studio recordings. At times Sillery and Sills seemingly read each other's minds.
There's no sophomore jinx lurking around here. This top-level set is full of strong compositions and vibrant musicianship, putting some modern juice and a bunch of inspired soloinginto the straightahead mode. And Joe Bagg's organ work -- for example, his briskly succinct turn on Sillery's "Neptune" -- is classic stuff.