, Milwaukee-based trumpeter and jazz educator Eric Jacobson and team take us on an aural time trip back to the days when album covers were iconically black and white or monochrome and the contents within were drenched in blue-hued Hard Bop. This is a fine effort with that precise presentation.
"New Combinations," which launches the date, is anything but new and sets the trajectory. One of four Jacobson originals, it is a straight-head burner directly out of the Jazz Messengers tradition where Jacobson and cadre declare that this is serious, swinging business. "Discover" is a laid-back, textured, Latinesque platform on which Jacobson's buttery tone speaks and haunts while saxman Geof Bradfield answers in mellowed echo. Pianist Bruce Barth offers a highly-punctuated solo.
Jacobson has a beautiful tone that shades on the brighter side with lush vibrato. His lines, always melodic, hint at something new and surprising around the corner. That makes for highly communicative playing and for us, involved listening. Like players such as Roy Hargrove and Tom Harrell, Jacobson is a "toucher" and not "pusher" of unnecessary technique or pre-planned patterns. Fellow front-liner Bradfield's saxophone is a mellow, subtle partner. He's more Wayne Shorter than say, Joe Henderson. Section mates Barth, George Fludas and Dennis Carroll individually and collectively also shine brightly.
Drawing from the Great American Songbook, the 1941 hit "I Hear a Rhapsody" is up-tempo and offers fine front-line and Barth piano solos and solid rhythm section support (catch drummer Fludas' initial brushwork). Blue Mitchell's blues "Sir John" swings straight-ahead with the Blue-influenced Jacobson paying fine homage. Saxophonist Bradfield takes off first here before Jacobson does the blues "calling." There's great interaction between Jacobson and Barth who later launches onto a fine ride. Dizzy Gillespie's classic "Con Alma" is a textural delight launched by Carroll's resonant bass with Jacobson and saxophonist stating the well-known theme before Bradfield takes off on a restrained but thoughtfully lyrical solo. The evergreen "Old Folks" closes the curtain in a stunningly azure-beautiful retrospective between Barth and Jacobson.
"Discover" is a terrific session of which Jacobson and talented crew can be proud. Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff certainly would be, too.