Technology has impacted jazz in a particularly nifty way, by allowing artists and groups to produce their own music with considerable ease. They no longer have to sell themselves to record producers, in order to make their efforts available to the buying public; they can record, manufacture and distribute their own music. As a result, we're increasingly exposed to musicians who may be appreciated in specific cities or states, but remain unknown outside those areas. The term "territory artists" has described such players for decades.
Origin Records is one of few name companies to concentrate on these relative 'unknowns', and this album features some of the fine musicians who have made their home or operational base in Chicago, Illinois. Jazz guitarist Peter Lerner is a household name there, as are the individuals who support him on this album.
Lerner was turned on to jazz at an early age by Jimmy Hendrix and Stanley Turrentine; the latter's recording of "Sugar," with George Benson on guitar, set his musical compass. Lerner earned his bachelor's degree in music from Chicago's American Conservatory of Music, and has worked as a musician, composer and arranger ever since. He has performed with many of the greats and near-greats, and is a constant fixture in Chicago's numerous jazz venues. His normal group is usually a trio or quartet, but for this release he expanded to an octet.
The pianist is jazz icon Willie Pickens, who at age 83 remains a fantastic artist. Bassist Marlene Rosenberg is the album's surprise star, at least to me; as the saying goes, she owns her instrument. Her beat is as solid as I've heard in years, and her technique is exquisite. Drummer Charles "Rick" Heath IV completes the solid rhythm section. The additional instrumentalists include Geof Bradfield on saxes and flute, Victor Garcia on flugelhorn, Andy Baker on trombone, and Joe Rendon on percussion.
Six of the nine tracks were composed and arranged by Lerner; the exceptions are Grant Green's "Jean De Fleur," Kenny Dorham's "La Mesha" and "When Sonny Gets Blue," written by Fisher/Seigel, and arranged by Pickens. The style is straight-ahead jazz, with a genre for everyone: bop, funk, Latin and gospel.
This is a very enjoyable group, whose members play cohesively and swingingly.