With Flash Point
, the follow-up to his Origin debut Parallel Tracks
, Randy Halberstadt augments his trio of bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer Mark Ivester with the dynamic frontline of trumpeter Thomas Marriott and saxophonist Mark Taylor.
The Seattle pianist has been much celebrated for his versatility as an accompanist, for years working behind Herb Ellis, Buddy DeFranco, and Sheila Jordan, as well as holding the piano chair in the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. Halberstadt is also an accomplished author and educator, his Metaphors for the Musician: Perspectives from a Jazz Pianist standing as one of the great texts for working and aspiring jazz musicians.
finds Halberstadt leading his air-tight quintet through a firmly post-bop set. The opening "Rigenia," an Halberstadt original, sets the pace with a broken piano figure that shows off the pianist's ear for unexpected harmonies. His own solo is a terrific display of rhythmic acumen, featuring countless shifts in time set atop his powerful swing. Taylor feeds off the momentum and shows how compelling he is in this context ? his solo hinting at the composition's dark undercurrent without ever sacrificing his effortless phrasing.
The disc continues with "On Green Dolphin Street," one of three tracks on Flash Point
Halberstadt did not pen. You could be forgiven for wondering if the world needed another recording of the old chestnut (likewise Davis's Solar which follows in the set), but Halberstadt's arrangement breathes new life into the melody; his latin figures, which Jeff Johnson doubles in the head to excellent effect, help obscure the source material while the horns freely embellish on it.
"Woofer" is a stand-out , immediately set apart by the syncopated beat-boxing (Halberstadt's?) that mirrors Ivester's dark funk. Taylor is once again very fine, while Marriott here turns in a characteristically imaginative solo that develops slowly without ever boiling over.
The album concludes with "Beatrice," the Sam Rivers composition which no amount of familiarity can lessen the sweetness of. Marriott and Taylor sit this one out, allowing Halberstadt to fully display his supreme approach to the ballad. After a short introduction, the trio states the melody before Halberstadt submits wave after wave of romantic imagination, defying cliché at each twist. Johnson adds a wonderful statement on bass before the trio exits: a satisfying performance that nonetheless leaves the ear wishing for more.
His gifts as an instrumentalist never in question, Flash Point
is a convincing reminder of Halberstadt's stature as a bandleader and composer. Certainly worth seeking out, and there may be no better place to find it than at the quintet's November 3 performance at Tula's.